With the completion of another Formula 1 race, exactly a week away, we will be nearing the halfway stage of the season. However, the tables, until such time, have turned quite dramatically and much to the chagrin of the team that was leading the proceedings right at the start.
Ferrari, it ought to be said, need to be saved by the gallows of a fightback whose need is, unfailingly, urgent.
Having scored nine podiums in all so far, which is one per race, can no longer afford the sport’s most iconic team rosy headlines.
They’ll have to rule by virtue of pure performance. But is it going to come? What’s the guarantee of such certainty in an utterly uncertain sport?
In current terms, the sense that one gets from the Ferrari camp, whether a racing nerd or a regular pundit, is that of a silent storm. Should it brew any further in the wake of any upcoming disappointing results, such as the one we saw at Monaco, it could potentially lead to a state of self-obliteration.
Worse still, self doubt.
The Mattia Binotto-led unit has won only two of the nine races held so far. All the others have fallen in Red Bull’s kitty.
And both those wins have gone Charles Leclerc’s way. Although, where recent events are an indication, then not an awful lot has gone Charles Leclerc’s way.
The Leclerc we saw at the beginning of the season- unflustered, fast, brave- isn’t the Leclerc we are seeing right now.
Bothered, hampered, afflicted by a car whose next DNF cannot be predicted precisely, define the present state of the famous Monegasque.
The man who was, a quarter of a year ago, posing a stern challenge to Red Bull in the world championship fight, finds himself sullied by a car that cannot be relied upon for offering sterling consistency, when not stymied by poor race strategy.
Alas, Leclerc now trails not just the championship-leader Verstappen and that too by forty nine points, but is also languishing behind Perez.
A lot about where- and how- the current championship stands could be ascertained by the ‘what might’ had Leclerc not retired at Spain and Azerbaijan, though for no fault of his own.
It is not that speed has detested him all of a sudden. Leclerc has topped the time sheets in six of the nine qualifying rounds held this season. That’s a serious number.
Moreover, Charles Leclerc stormed to a sensational pole at Baku, which was the last race prior to the most recent Formula 1 Grand Prix that took place at Canada.
Besides the F-175, though an undeniably fast speedster, being unfairly unstable on performance and reliability, Leclerc’s title-rival, Max Verstappen is buzzing with serious form.
For all the lost opportunities at not grabbing pole on a Saturday, Verstappen is coming good and more often than not, on the all-important Sundays.
That Max has now taken a win in five of the last six races is not just a sign of Red Bull’s imperious form but a throat-slitting attack leveled at a rival that could deliver the death knell for Ferrari.
Whether you are an impassioned Tifosi or the unmistakable future of Ferrari, Charles Leclerc yourself, perhaps another defeat to Red Bull will be a sight entirely unacceptable and worst still, an unbearable predicament to recover from.
While on paper, Leclerc, should he somehow manage to win the next two races, can significantly curtail the 49-point disadvantage to Max. But should that not happen, the added pressure of then having to close what’ll clearly be an even bigger gap to Red Bull may prove to be the real undoing for Charles Leclerc.
It’s a possibility that none from the Ferrari camp would desire happening for real. But hey, it can.
This is Formula 1, where everything you say can come true and so too can its opposite.
It’s a sport where a Kimi, who began from seventeenth on the grid, circa 2005, rose to the top at Suzuka. It’s also a sport where, out of nowhere, Sir Lewis Hamilton, who was disqualified from the 2021 Brazilian GP quali, hit right back at Red Bull to win at Sao Paulo.
And similarly, it’s also a sport where one’s title-winning hopes can be dashed to the ground in a final lap overtake as seen at Abu Dhabi’s contest, one admired by some and ostracized by many others.
And while which way the unpredictable F1 pendulum swings come Silverstone, we don’t know; what’s certain is that Leclerc’s reputation for clinching stunning poles won’t do the job. It just won’t.
Never before in his still growing, still relatively nascent F1 career has the need to win races been so urgent.
A 1-2-1 at the start of the season, i.e., a win followed by a P2 and yet another win has made way to a DNF, P4, and another DNF, where recent events at Spain, Monaco and Baku stand, respectively.
The time to bounce back is now. But the clock, one’s afraid, is ticking.
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock! What can and will Charles do to fight back?