JULY 26, 2022

The big difference between Leclerc and Verstappen

The French GP only reinforced the "big difference" between 2022 title challenger Charles Leclerc and Formula 1's reigning champion Max Verstappen.

Max Verstappen, French GP 2022
© Red Bull

The French GP only reinforced the "big difference" between 2022 title challenger Charles Leclerc and Formula 1's reigning champion Max Verstappen.

That is the view of outspoken 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, but even the highly partisan Italian press agrees that mistakes look set to cost Ferrari this year's world championship.

"No one is perfect," read an editorial at Corriere dello Sport, "but the title always goes to the one who makes the fewest mistakes.

"Leclerc's insecurity is also becoming an issue for the entire team, because while an insecure champion can be a great driver, he will not be a great leader.

"Verstappen has a huge advantage now and is confidently heading for his second title," the Italian sports newspaper added.

La Gazzetta dello Sport agrees: "To become a champion, you can't make these mistakes.

"Verstappen learned from mistakes in the past and became a flawless driver over time. Now Leclerc is on that path."

According to Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto, however, Leclerc's crash from the lead on Sunday is already in the past.

"There's no reason why we shouldn't win the last ten races," he insists. "I'm very positive because of the package we have.

"We know that our basic concept is good and we've also been able to develop the car very well," Binotto added.

"The team has made very brave decisions since the winter, bringing innovations that actually work."

Indeed, Verstappen and Red Bull are nervous about the tight and twisty Hungaroring layout this weekend, particularly with the introduction of Ferrari's new floor.

"We introduced a new floor that is supposed to improve performance but also eliminate the bouncing," Binotto said.

"It was difficult to test so far because Paul Ricard has fairly smooth asphalt."

According to Dutch GP boss Jan Lammers, however, the problem is not just Leclerc, but also the Ferrari organisation.

"There is some truth in Binotto's statement that they can win the next ten races," he told NOS. "The only thing I miss is the sense of responsibility at Ferrari.

"You can see it with Leclerc which is admirable, but it's just been a feast of mistakes by Ferrari," the former F1 driver added.

"But Max isn't just playing the underdog role by saying Ferrari still has the stronger car."

From Villeneuve's perspective, Leclerc's admission of responsibility for the Paul Ricard crash simply isn't enough.

"I don't really understand, because in Austria he withstood the pressure. But that's just the big difference between Leclerc and Verstappen," the Canadian told the Dutch publication Formule 1.

"These things just don't happen with Max. If he is beaten by Leclerc, he usually finishes second and so that big points gap is not going to be easy to shrink.

"We now have a championship with basically equal cars, but one of them has a big lead. It's the best example of how a championship is won and lost."