By this point, I’m sure we’ve all seen the photo of Mattia Binotto having stern words with Charles Leclerc after the British Grand Prix last weekend. One wonders what the young Monegasque driver must have said to his Italian team principal. But after more shocking decisions from the Ferrari pit wall, how can you blame him? When Leclerc brought the Scuderia back to the top step of the podium in Bahrain it appeared that another epic championship battle was on the cards. He would then roar to victory in Melbourne a few weeks later, securing a huge lead in the championship. At that point, online bookmakers such as Bet365, who provide betting and free offers on Formula One, actually made the Ferrari man the favorite for the title. But since then, his season has fallen apart.
From bad to worse
An engine failure diminished his 10+ second lead in Barcelona, which Max Verstappen would go on to win. Then in Leclerc’s home race – the famed Monaco Grand Prix – Binotto and his cohorts somehow conspired to throw away not only the lead of the race but also a spot on the podium altogether. That was compounded a week later with another engine failure when leading in Azerbaijan.
But perhaps the worst of all came last weekend. With Leclerc comfortably leading and pulling away from his teammate Carlos Sainz with just 12 laps to go, Ferrari inexplicably left the race leader out under the safety car on ageing hard tires. The rest of the grid pitted for fresh soft tires, which were over a second per lap quicker, and Leclerc had been effectively hung out to dry. He would slip down the order to finish fourth while his teammate Sainz, who was significantly slower up until the late safety car, would go on to win for the first time in his career. To make matters worse, championship leader Verstappen finished down in 7th, and Silverstone represented a perfect chance for Ferrari’s supposed lead driver to claw back some vital points in the Championship charge.
Leclerc shows his grit
Despite the tactical blunder, no one can now deny the heart of the Pride of Monaco. Even with his aged tires, the 24-year-old would not give up. He had some epic battles with Sergio Perez’s Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. That never say die attitude was almost enough.
Perez thought he had his man on numerous occasions, only for Leclerc to hang in there with him. The Mexican would eventually get passed – with a maneuver that looked suspiciously like corner-cutting – and streak away, but Leclerc still had more fight in him, as seven-time champ Hamilton would find out. The Brit looked to have clawed himself back onto the podium, only for the Ferrari to come charging back at him down the old pit straight.
In a move similar to the one that left Verstappen in hospital last year, Leclerc overtook Hamilton around the outside of the 180mph Copse Corner. The overtake was one of incredible bravery, and if anyone doubted the four-time Grand Prix winner’s heart, they won’t be doubting anymore.
Hamilton back competing at the front
Once again, there was more late safety car heartbreak for Lewis Hamilton, but there are encouraging signs ahead of the second half of the Formula One season. He and his Silver Arrow were charging down the leading Ferrari’s throughout the race. And with fresher tires toward the end, it looked like the sport’s resident GOAT would manage to haul himself into the lead for his first victory of the season.
But alas, Esteban Ocon’s retirement late on robbed us of that, but there Hamilton and his Mercedes team will take the positives ahead of the next Grand Prix in Austria, where one wouldn’t be surprised to see him take an incredible 104th career victory.