Former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard has praised Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc after his near-immaculate start to the 2022 season.
The Monegasque has now claimed four wins in F1 after winning two of the opening three rounds of this season in Bahrain and Australia, sealing pole position and the fastest lap in both of them.
Coulthard managed seven wins for McLaren during Michael Schumacher’s five years of utter dominance between 2000 and 2004, and, for a short period, the pair had a slightly frosty relationship after their clash at the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix.
The Briton jovially suggests that watching Leclerc run out in the lead with relative ease brought his “fears” back to life.
“I had a little bit of a shiver actually, a flashback to when Michael was dominant in the Ferrari. All my fears came back again!” he said.
On a more serious note, the 51-year-old praised the talent and humility that the championship leader possesses, as well as team principal Mattia Binotto’s composure during their extremely rocky period in 2020 and 2021.
“We’ve got to acknowledge he’s a quality driver, a great human being,” he added.
“Ferrari have worked hard and [team principal] Mattia Binotto, what a cool character he’s been under all the pressure of the lack of performance over the last two years.”
Fellow former F1 racer Christian Klien suggests that, now the 24-year-old has a competitive car, his “exceptional talent” is being highlighted.
“Leclerc already showed what he can do against Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari at the beginning of his career,” he told Servus TV.
“Okay, Carlos Sainz is also good. But now the car is good enough to win, Leclerc’s exceptional talent comes to the fore. It’s like Verstappen, he has that quality too.”
Klien, who scored points in six occasions for a combination of Jaguar and its successor Red Bull, sees no reason why the Ferrari driver cannot sustain his current form and challenge for the 2022 F1 title.
“I think driving-wise, Leclerc is on a similar level as Verstappen. I’m thinking of the races in Bahrain or Jeddah. You can definitely see Charles is ripe to have a say in the title,” he explained.
“Leclerc can now draw on his considerable lead in the World Championship standings. But there have been years in Formula 1 when big gaps have been closed.”
Leclerc leads the Drivers’ Standings by 34 points from Mercedes’ George Russell, who capitalised on Max Verstappen’s reliability-induced DNF to claim his first Mercedes podium in Australia.