Charles Leclerc makes performance promise in Formula 1 title fight with Max Verstappen

Charles Leclerc has vowed to “unlock more performance” across the course of the 2022 Formula 1 season as he competes for the World Championship with Max Verstappen.

The Ferrari and Red Bull drivers have engaged in a tactical tussle for victory at both of the opening races of the campaign, with Leclerc coming out on top in Bahrain and Verstappen taking victory in Saudi Arabia.

Verstappen’s late engine failure at Sakhir means Leclerc currently enjoys a 20-point advantage over the Dutchman, with Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari separating them in the standings.

Formula 1 has undergone its biggest regulation change in a generation, shaking up the grid order as all ten teams have been forced to design their new machinery from scratch.

While Mercedes are languishing lower down the order in midfield after winning eight consecutive constructors’ championships, Ferrari and Red Bull are clear pacesetters after nailing the transition to a new era of car design, and the only teams capable of fighting for race victories on raw speed as things stand.

Both squads will develop their cars as the season progresses in order to improve, but Leclerc is promising to hit higher levels in his own driving too.

“I feel good in general, but there’s definitely more to come,” the Monegasque said after finishing second to Verstappen last Sunday.

“The thing I’m happy about is not really the performance but that I know exactly where I still need to work, and what I need to improve to unlock more performance. Whether it will be enough or not to win the championship, I have no idea. It’s still very early on in the season, but let’s say that it’s a very good start to the season.

“As I said many times, I think development will be key, and we as drivers need to help the team in the best way possible to keep this competitiveness.”

F1’s regulation change has been designed to allow cars to follow one another more closely, without losing too much of their downforce, in turn meaning drivers can race one another harder and overtake more often. On the evidence so far, the changes seem to be working, with Leclerc and Verstappen swapping places for the lead multiple times over consecutive laps in both opening rounds.

(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Leclerc has handled Verstappen’s tricks on track well so far, including the Dutchman pressing him before the restart after safety car periods. Now, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says that Leclerc possesses the skillset to compete at the very top.

“I think he is [ready to fight for the title]Binotto said. “But [it’s] something I was expecting when renewing [his contract] with him up to 2024, because we know what he is capable of, and I think that he is simply demonstrating that he’s capable of fighting for the championship. No doubt, he’s got the talent, he’s got the capacity, he is a very good racer and I am very happy with what he is providing during these two races.”

The third round of the 2022 Formula 1 season takes place at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia on the weekend of 8 April.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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