1996 Formula 1 World Champion Damon Hill believes current Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc is too “anxious” and apologetic, with the Monegasque having seen his best chance of winning the Drivers’ Championship yet slip away.
Given the fact that Max Verstappen has a 116-point-lead over Leclerc in the championship, it’s incredibly easy to forget that the Ferrari driver actually won two of the opening three races and led the standings by 40 points.
Whilst Ferrari are largely at fault for costing Leclerc a real shot at the title, through two engine failures whilst leading and a number of catastrophic victory costing strategic errors, the 24-year-old has to also take some of the responsibility.
Leclerc has made two unnecessary driver errors this season, the first being at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and the second behind at the French Grand Prix.
The Scuderia driver span out of third place at Imola whilst closing down on Sergio Pérez, costing him a podium finish after being forced to pit for a nose change.
What happened at the Circuit Paul Ricard was even worse for Leclerc, after he crashed out of the race lead, giving Verstappen yet another easy victory.
The pressure of having not won a Drivers’ Championship since 2007 appears to have gotten the better of Ferrari, something which could be the cause of why Hill believes Leclerc is always “anxious” when driving for the Maranello-based side.
When comparing Leclerc to Verstappen, the ex-F1 driver hailed the Dutchman for his “confidence”, which has been evident since he joined the championship as a 17-year-old.
“I think it is that sense of comfort and confidence that Max has,” said Hill on the F1 Nation podcast.
“I think the first time we interviewed him, and it’s this 17-year-old guy, and he just knew how to handle himself. He just had so much confidence. It was utterly unbelievable for a 17-year-old.
“And Charles is a very charming, intelligent kid, but he’s anxious. He’s got an anxiety there.”
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has recently explained that the team are missing something from the “[Michael] Schumacher era”, where the seven-time World Champion went on a run of five consecutive Drivers’ Championships.
Hill was one of many drivers to have the German as a rival, who, according to the Briton, never apologised or took the blame for an accident.
Leclerc is commonly heard apologising to his team over the radio, something Hill could never imagine “Schumacher saying”.
“I thought the first time I heard him say, ‘I’m really sorry guys, that was all my fault’, I just thought ‘can’t imagine Michael Schumacher saying that ever’,” said Hill.
With the team having also not won the Constructors’ since 2008, it is understandable somewhat as to why the Monegasque has at times appeared over apologetic, with there being more pressure at Ferrari than any other side to return to championship winning ways.
It seems bonkers that it’s been 14 years since Ferrari claimed one of the titles given their unmatchable success and history; however, you’d have to think that the longer the team’s wait goes on, the more pressure the drivers will feel under.