Charles Leclerc was in the eye of the storm today, as his qualifying effort was thwarted by a mistake at the unforgiving Turn 8. Just moments before, Robert Kubica had crashed out at the same spot, heavily damaging the barriers, and subsequently the Monegasque replicated the error. He immediately commented it. “I was so stupid today” he said through the team radio, displaying a great deal of embarrassment and frustration following his costly mistake. He later commented “I have been useless today”, with that being just one manifestation of his harshness when it comes to assessing his own results, especially his shortcomings.
The top 3 qualifiers discussed the matter of Leclerc’s heavy self-criticism. Hamilton was extremely sympathetic towards the young Monegasque: “I’d be the same. That’s how we’re tuned as racing drivers – when it’s your mistake, we’re tough on ourselves. I think probably when you’re younger as opposed to being older you’re maybe a bit less when you’re older. But still, it’s painful. There’s a lot of pressure around a track like this, on his young shoulders, so it’s totally normal. It’s cool thay he is open about it, because he can get it out and move forwards tomorrow.”
Valtteri Bottas did not spend many words on Leclerc, but still shared the feelings described by Lewis Hamilton: “Yeah, the own mistakes you do yourself and you could have avoided, they hurt the most. And it’s annoying, so I definitely can understand. Maybe Finns, maybe we don’t shout it out loud so much, but we still have feelings”.
Leclerc’s teammate Sebastian Vettel assured that the SF90 has the potential and the team has the capability to bounce back tomorrow, as he is confident that Ferrari can fight for the top spot despite today’s result.
“Being critical I think is also the reason why he’s here, why we’re here. I don’t think anybody of us enjoys that part of our racing life, but every now and then it’s part of it, so. The weekend isn’t over yet, I think we have a good car and I’m sure we can recover as a team tomorrow.”
Obviously Leclerc’s mature side is coming out race after race, which is potentially healthy for the personal growth of the driver but could still hurt his mindset if he allows it to get in his head. Only time will tell if Leclerc is strong-minded enough to withstand the pressure of being a Ferrari driver, but the Azerbaijan GP far from over. Therefore, we are yet to see Charles Leclerc’s true colours.