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f1 ferrari leclerc

Inside Line: The real Leclerc emerges on Ferrari team radio

f1 ferrari leclerc

Charles Leclerc is portrayed as a darling driver, so fast and wonderful that Ferrari have invested in him as their Chosen One but his true colours, which suggest the selfishness of a true Champion, tend to be revealed over the team radio.

It is becoming increasingly evident under the rule of Fred Vasseur at Maranello that Leclerc remains the favoured one. Carlos Sainz is increasingly and obviously marginalised even sacrificed for the benefit of his teammate.

As was the blatant case during the Hungarian Grand Prix, in which his team sacrificed Carlos after his stellar first lap on Soft tyres, with all others on Mediums. He blitzed from P11 on the grid to P6 in a flash of a few sublime corners, to tuck behind Charles despite the potential to go faster on the softer rubber. But Ferrari kept it LEC-SAI for the whole race.

Despite fluffing Leclerc’s stop, the Red pitwall engineered it so that he always stayed ahead of Sainz. How? By simply fiddling with Carlos’ strategy to keep Charles sweet.

From what we saw over the weekend in Budapest, the scenario within the Scuderia can be summed up as follows:

  • Leclerc not trusting his team will do the right thing and that is to keep him ahead of Sainz, whenever possible.
  • Sainz does not trust that Ferrari won’t shaft him to benefit teammate Leclerc, whenever possible.
    It’s a messed up situation.

Combine Leclerc and Sainz’s talents and you may get a driver able to match Verstappen

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 30: (L-R) Second placed qualifier Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari, Pole Position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Third placed qualifier Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari celebrate in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on June 30, 2023 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

This is all exacerbated by the fact that has become obvious this season. Leclerc is a couple of tenths faster than Sainz in full-blown Qualy mode, but the Spaniard is a smarter racer. In fact, hypothetically, if you combined the two you would maybe have a bloke as fast as Max Verstappen. A Carlos Leclerc or Charles Sainz if you wish!

The radio chit-chat is where the true colours of Ferrari drivers come out. All F1 drivers for that matter. Sainz is clear as glass. His intent is to get the Reds out of this slump and does not care where he finishes if not on the podium or fighting for wins. His manners are impeccable, his commitment obvious, as is his intent not to play second fiddle to the guy in the #16 car.

Leclerc, on the other hand, is the Little Prince of Italy. The entire nation idolises the angelic kid from Monaco because he got the better of an over-the-hill Sebastian Vettel in the German’s final forgettable days in Red.

Collectively Italy believes Charles will rekindle the Schumi-Ferrari-Golden-Era dream. But far too often oblivious to their driver’s faults and mistakes. And while he plays along with Carlos to make out they are best of mates, it’s all PR bullsh!t as we all know. There is nothing matey about a F1 teammate. Ever.

Leclerc knows (because race drivers know these things instinctively) that Sainz is his biggest threat to him remaining the big cheese at Maranello. Thus he is doing everything to undermine him because that’s what F1 is about first and foremost for a driver: Beat your teammate, then beat him by as much as possible. Make him leave the team. It’s totally unique in sports.

And that’s observations that we are allowed to see as observers of the sport. Behind the scenes, there are polemics and spats we know nothing of. And will probably only learn about when these drivers write their bios in many years to come. Or one departs. Or Netflix Drive to Survive next year, hopefully, they get all this on film.

These not-so-subtle driver spats are increasingly frequent at Ferrari A recent example was the Hungaroring qualifying whinge Leclerc had that got the shenanigans off to a start last Saturday.

Leclerc: Let’s stay calm but come on!

carlos sainz duck ferrari f1 leclerc

During Hungary qualifying, after a traffic-jam-related incident between the Red cars, Leclerc ratted his teammate over the Ferrari team radio: “Let’s stay calm but come on. I don’t know if you’ve seen that but it’s borderline.”

Afterwards, when asked to clarify the statement, Charles dodged a bullet from reporters reporters: “Nothing special. I will speak with the team about that. It wasn’t a big thing.”

The “big thing” came later in the day. On the defensive all race long, as Sainz appeared from P11 Nowhereland to large in his teammate’s mirrors, on the opening lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday. Thereafter Leclerc’s afternoon appeared to shift from attacking the rivals ahead to keeping his teammate behind him at all costs.

Of course, Ferrari obliged and with it accepted a paltry P7 and P8 on the day when, if they had been attack-minded and released Sainz early, they may have strategised a strong end to the race. Had they worked together they might’ve even sniffed a podium. But holding station appears to have been higher on the agenda than going to war with Mercedes and McLaren up ahead.

At one point in the race, probably fearing another tactical lapse from his team, Leclerc questioned the team strategy when his Ferrari engineer Xavier Padros informed him: “We are discussing it at the end.”
Leclerc blasted back: “What do you mean at the end?” Upon which a sterner Padros put full-stop to the discussion: “We are on it.”

The problem is that we have also lots of problems with the radio

ferrari pitwall clowns

Thereafter ensued the parody of what can only be seen as a cover-up by the Scuderia, using the old ‘blame-it-on-the-pit-radio- crackle” excuse. Another Leclerc shooting from the hip that needs soothing over.

Charles explained to reporters after the race: “The problem is that we have also lots of problems with the radio and one out of four words is not understood by my engineer. There’s just problems with our radios in three, four races.”

Did they pack the wrong box of radios for four races? Instead of the box marked ‘Radios-2023’ they grabbed the ‘Radios-2003’ box? All this will have Tifosi in tears of frustration and the rest of us collectively burst into tears of laughter at the excuse.

How are Ferrari going to win races let alone F1 world titles if they can’t get their radios to work? And it’s not just a problem, as Charles mentioned it’s “lots of problems” with the radio.

The last time we heard that excuse must’ve been decades ago! Today basic over-the-counter technology (aka your average smartphone) allows people to communicate, from underground days after an earthquake hits a place.

Yet Ferrari high-tech can’t make the comms work over a 3km or so radius that covers Hungaroring? They have a solution according to Leclerc: “We need to fix that. And obviously, my tone of voice is quite high because I need to make myself heard.”

Is that a Pinocchio nose growing on the Little Prince of Ferrari?

charles-leclerc-ferrari-1

Okay, so they going to fix the radios. Tick. But seriously the tone of his voice? In other words, how do you fix tantrums?

Is that a Pinnochio nose growing there? Leclerc explained: “I just wanted to make sure that they didn’t understand me wrong, and that I want you to go aggressive early, and not aggressive late. So it was just about clarifying because of our radio issues.”

Jokes aside, the favouring of Leclerc is clear-cut at Ferrari. Whenever he can he has a good old moan about Sainz, subtle sometimes, but these days mostly not. Making it increasingly clear that with the current driver line-up, Ferrari are going nowhere. It’s like this with a bad car, imagine if they had a race-winning machine at their disposal and these two were at it for wins…

Choices were made. Pairing the Charlies was always going to be problematic. And history shows as Red Bull did with Verstappen, as Vasseur is onside with Leclerc over Sainz. Hence the entire Maranello will be behind the Chosen One so to speak.

Coupled with Leclerc’s increasing overt hostility and assertiveness within the team that, come the end of 2024, Leclerc will stay which means Sainz will have to walk or be damned to Eddie Irvine, Rubens Barrichello status. But where to for the well-travelled Spaniard?

Audi in 2025 seems the best bet for Carlos

Carlos Sainz 'has everything he needs to become a top F1 driver' - Andreas Seidl - GPFans.com

Like many illustrious drivers before him, Sainz’s Ferrari dream is being doused. In this case, by the guy he is forced ‘like’ to keep the spin doctors happy.

Fortunately, the Spanish media Sainz’s his back as they too weigh in on the favouring of Leclerc at the expense of their countryman.

Once again politics overwhelms sportsmanship in the house that Enzo Ferrari built. Where today, wins are becoming distant memories, let alone F1 titles which dried up for the Scuderia 15 years ago. A drought that at this rate may last another decade or more.

If Leclerc wants to be remembered in the Michael Schumacher mould by Tifosi by Ferrari he is going about it the right way, with the selfishness of a true F1 Champion. Step 1: Marginalise potential enemy number one, neutralise teammate Sainz.

But please don’t try to pull the Red wool over our eyes in the process.