Safe to say, it’s not been a great time for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc so far this season. Australia was his second “Did Not Finish” of the year after spinning out in a Lap 1 tangle with both Aston Martin drivers and ending up in the Turn 3 gravel trap. But is it actually his worst start to an F1 season?
Almost feels harsh breaking this one down given there’s probably already been 10,000 pain-related Leclerc memes, but we wanted to give the man a fair shake. So here’s a look at all his opening rounds since joining F1 and applying some analysis after the first three races in all of his seasons to see if this has truly been as bad as it’s been for Charles. So firstly, this season so far…
2023: 6 Points – Yeah, this is a pretty high… or low benchmark, depending on how you want to look at it. A spin-out in Australia and a power-unit failure in Bahrain induced a shock grid penalty for Jeddah, but at least Charles came back well to finish in 7th in what was about the best Ferrari could have hoped for.
2022: 71 Points – Slight improvement here. Charles was almost perfect through three rounds last year. Yes, he took advantage of Red Bull’s shocking early reliability but he was winning in both Bahrain and Australia before Max’s retirements. Two wins, 2nd in Jeddah, 2 poles, 3 fastest laps and even the first Grand Slam of his career in Albert Park (Pole, Win, Fastest Lap and leading every lap). It’s the rest of the season where the problems started.
2021: 28 Points – Not too much to write home about here. 6th in Bahrain, 4th in Imola and then 6th again in Portimao (Remember when we raced there?). Ferrari ultimately finished 3rd in the Constructors’ Championship with a bit of classic back and forth with a stronger McLaren team, so finishing in these spots was about right for the prancing horse.
2020: 18 Points – The second place in the opening round in Austria is doing a lot of heavy lifting. F1 doubled up at the Red Bull Ring during the pandemic and the second time around Charles infamously crashed into his then-teammate Sebastian Vettel, taking them both out of the race. Add in an 11th in Hungary as Ferrari were genuine midfielders in 2020 (6th) and this wasn’t too good a start, but 2nd place was way above average for the team relatively speaking.
2019: 36 Points – Leclerc’s first season at Ferrari and this was a very good start to life in red. Top 5s in all three races, including pole position in Bahrain and a podium finish (and Bahrain could’ve been a win if the car hadn’t let him down), just one point behind established teammate Vettel. All good here.
2018: 0 Points – Don’t let the point table fool you, remember this was his rookie season at Sauber, and they ultimately ended up 8th in the Championship that year. Funnily enough, it was his 4th race where Charles had his best result of the season – 6th in Baku. You could probably argue that his first few races were just standard rookie “teething problems” as he’d go on to beat then teammate Marcus Ericsson 39-9 on points and impress enough to get the Ferrari gig. So yeah, tough start, but there’s mitigation there.
So, to answer the question, is this Charles’ worst start to a season… yeah, probably. Ouch.
Do you think Ferrari will turn this around for Leclerc this season?