Charles Leclerc might look back on 2022 as the year that should’ve been his, especially given the fact that he claimed victory at two of the opening three races of the season.
The Ferrari driver started the season stronger than anyone could’ve imagined, with it, at the time, looking like the Monegasque might actually be the Italians savour.
Ferrari haven’t won a Drivers’ Championship since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, 16 years ago.
Given Ferrari’s wealth of success, it seems barmy that they’ve gone trophy-less for that long, with their only other recent success being the 2008 Constructors’ Championship.
Leclerc looked confident, fast, and somewhat unbeatable, especially given how many issues Red Bull were having.
However, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Ferrari’s home race, proved to be a defining moment in the championship which arguably swung the momentum into Max Verstappen’s favour.
Leclerc, on that occasion, was hunting down Sergio Pérez for second and was lapping much faster, making an overtake likely towards the end of the race at Imola.
The 24-year-old threw it all away, though, after spinning on the exit of the Variante Alta chicane, resulting in the Monegasque finishing sixth rather than a potential second.
Imola really was the turning point, as Leclerc’s next victory didn’t come until the Austrian Grand Prix, with Verstappen having won all but two races in between.
Strategic errors and reliability gremlins did play their part; however, when given the right package, Leclerc occasionally faltered at the costliest of times.
His biggest error of the season came at the French Grand Prix, after the driver crashed out of the race lead whilst battling Verstappen.
It was after winning at Paul Ricard that the Dutchman knew he had his second consecutive title in the bag, something Leclerc secured for him at the recent Japanese Grand Prix after making an unnecessary mistake.
Leclerc was awarded a five-second time penalty for cutting across the Turn 16/17 chicane at Suzuka, dropping him from second to third, which made Verstappen champion.
The mistakes have been spoken about on a somewhat regular basis, given the significance they hold in regard to the 2022 championship.
Ferrari’s number 16 thinks they are talked about “more than it should be”, with the team simply needing to execute Sundays “better”.
“I don’t think when I did the mistakes, I had to compensate for anything,” Leclerc told RacingNews365.
“It was just obviously motivation to do in [Ferrari’s home race at] Imola, and then in France, yes, I did the mistake, but I think that could have happened anywhere in the season.
“For me, it’s not this. I try to push the limits all the time, and then there was this big mistake in France and smaller one in Imola. I cannot change it. I feel like it is being talked [about] much more than it should be.
“Obviously, looking at the points gap, it is huge and there has been consecutive points losses and at one point, everything we were doing was under the spotlights. As a team, we just need to be better executing Sundays and this is what we should work [towards].”
With the title secured for Verstappen, Leclerc is now fighting for second in the Drivers’ Championship with Pérez.
Pérez’s recent win at Singapore and P2 at Suzuka has seen the Mexican move above Leclerc in the standings, with just one point separating the duo with four races remaining.
Despite the disappointment of having not been in the title fight until the end, Leclerc is “very happy” with his 2022 performance overall but did admit he was “too greedy” at France specifically.
“Honestly, I’m very happy with this season,” he added.
“Of course we’re always going to talk about my mistakes in Imola and in France but in over 23 races, we have too many now, there’s always going to be a mistake at one point or another and especially [when you are] pushing for the limit.
“So yes, I was probably too greedy in France when there was no need to be greedy at that moment of the race.
Maybe also in Imola when the best I could [have done] was just staying in my position and I thought about doing better.
“From a driver’s point of view, it has given me many more things that probably you don’t see from the outside. As a driver, you always try to work on the small details, not weaknesses, but every time you a race, you learn from it.
“You try to bring it forward and be a better driver. There’s not much I would have changed personally at the beginning of the season.”