Midweek Wrap: Leclerc’s Coronation, RBR Driver Deadline, So Long Rich Energy

Having already announced himself last week with a win in Belgium, Charles Leclerc followed it up with a win that has sent the conjecture about him and Sebastian Vettel into overdrive.

Leclerc the Number One? A story you could see coming a mile off, Charles Leclerc’s impressive win in front of the tifosi at Monza has predictably seen the calls for him to replace Sebastian Vettel as Ferrari’s number one driver further intensify.

On one hand, it’s very understandable – Leclerc has both of Ferrari’s two victories this season, should’ve had a third in Bahrain, and possibly a fourth in Austria, while Vettel seems to keep forgetting which end of his car is which, with another unfortunate spin on Sunday. On the other hand, I wouldn’t call the head-to-head exactly damning for Vettel, as while Leclerc is ahead 182-169 on points (and thanks to everyone for pointing out I had this wrong on Monday, maths is definitely not my strong suit!), and 6-5 (discounting Monaco, Austria and Germany) in qualifying, the German still leads in races 8-6. Leclerc may be winning, but it’s not exactly a Daniel Ricciardo circa 2014-type beatdown, and with seven races to go it’s still far from over.

That said, part of me wonders whether this will turn into a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, with the way the press are pumping-up Leclerc and pilingon Vettel. If Vettel is missing confidence, it definitely won’t help to have the same scribes who were trumpeting you as Ferrari’s saviour in 2015 now crowing your demise, and maybe that’s enough to complete the downward spiral.

Red Bull to Decide 2020 Lineup After USGP: A move that I’m struggling to make sense of, Helmut Marko has suggested he will have his pairings for Red Bull and Toro Rosso decided ‘after America’, which is on the fourth of November.

Given both Alex Albon’s limited time in the Red Bull, and there being two more races after CotA left in the season, I’m not sure why Marko feels the need to be so hasty. He’ll have had seven races in the RB15 by that point, and while that’s not an insignificant amount, it would discount the Brazilian GP, which is one of the only races Marko will get to see Albon in a car with guaranteed race-winning potential.

Still, if early November is to be the deadline, it seems to be between Albon and Daniil Kvyat (sorry, Nico Hulkenberg). Pierre Gasly continues to do nothing of note, so the only question is whether the young Thai can impress enough for them not to return to the known quantity of Kvyat. So far he’s had one good race, and one not so good one, but as unfamiliar with the car as he is, I’d say that so far, he’s done a decent job.

Alonso Not Ruling Out Return in 2021: File this one in the “no, duh” section, Fernando Alonso has not closed the door on a return to F1, even if he already knows he won’t be competing in 2020.

Unfortunately for Fernando, even with another year off still think the question will be “who would want him?” The big three teams all have their number one guys, and he’s historically hurt team chemistry when he’s not in a race-winning car, so which of the also-rans would take the gamble? Maybe Haas? Sorry Nando, it just doesn’t seem feasible.

Haas Ends Rich Energy Sponsorship: After approximately 20 months on the rollercoaster built by rejected ZZ Top member William Storey, it seems Haas have finally decided to get off – Rich Energy branding will no longer adorn the VF-19. A disaster that we all saw coming the moment it was announced, here’s hoping Haas’ next title sponsor actually has a buyable product.