Pressure on Leclerc and Ferrari for 2022 improvement

Charles Leclerc signed for Ferrari ahead of the 2019 season in an attempt to revive the fortunes of the struggling outfit.

The Monegasque was hailed as the future of Ferrari after replacing Kimi Raikkonen alongside Sebastian Vettel to push the Italian team back to the top of the Drivers and Constructors’ Championship. His first season was full of promise, finishing fourth overall in the standings, while ushering Ferrari into second place in the Constructors’ Championship, although well off the pace of Mercedes at the top.

However, few could predict how poorly Vettel and Leclerc, along with their team, would perform in 2020, finishing in sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship, Ferrari’s worst performance since 1980. Leclerc placed in eighth overall in the Drivers’ Championship, prompting the need for an improvement.

Vettel was moved on at the end of the term and was replaced by Carlos Sainz Jr. There was a slight improvement, guiding the team back to prominence, but the form of Leclerc was still a concern. There is still faith in the Monegasque to come good. He is backed at 11/1 in the odds with Space Casino to win the 2022 Drivers’ Championship, although it will take a remarkable turnaround in a year for the 24-year-old to challenge Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the top of the sport. New regulations for the 2022 season could play a decisive role in allowing Ferrari to bridge the gap, but whether it will be enough remains to be seen.

The Italian outfit experienced a similar boost in 2017 with their new model, the SF70H, which was designed to reel in Mercedes’ dominance of the Drivers and Constructors’ Championship. Vettel produced an outstanding start to the campaign by producing victories in three out of the six opening races of the term at the Australian, Bahrain, and Monaco Grands Prix. He finished second in the Chinese, Russian, and Spanish Grands Prix. Vettel and his team had control of the standings, putting the pressure on Mercedes and Hamilton to fight back. However, the German and the Italian outfit would muster only two further victories from the remaining 14 races of the term, finishing 46 points off the pace of the Brit, who regained the crown he had lost to teammate Nico Rosberg.

A similar story occurred in 2018 as Vettel won the opening two races of the campaign, but tailed off after his bright start. The lesson for Ferrari into the 2022 season and beyond is evident: their changes must be sustainable over the course of an entire season rather than just providing a quick burst at the start of the term. Leclerc was fighting a losing battle in 2020, and indeed in 2021, with a lacklustre car compared to his rivals at the top. He has proven in brief spurts he can produce elite form, but the test will come when he perform on a consistent basis.

That is what separates the best in the sport from the rest. Verstappen had to wait for his opportunity, and ensured that when the chance was there, he seized it. Ferrari and Leclerc will have vowed to improve, but action speaks louder than words. The Monegasque has three years remaining on his deal with the Italian outfit, and he should be at least competing for the crown come 2024.




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