‘First blaming yourself’: Ex-team boss on Charles Leclerc

Charles Leclerc worked with Beat Zehnder during his rookie campaign in 2018 at Alfa Romeo.

Alfa Romeo sporting director Beat Zehnder has labelled Ferrari star Charles Leclerc as the “most perfect driver” he’s ever worked with, due to the 25-year-old’s “eagerness” to understand everything about Formula 1.

Leclerc raced for Alfa Romeo in 2018, the year where the Monegasque made his mark at the pinnacle of motorsport.

Leclerc’s rookie campaign was a solid one, with Ferrari having promoted him into the Maranello-based team after just one season racing for the Hinwil-based team.

As a result, Leclerc and 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen switched places, with Raikkonen having remained at Alfa Romeo until the end of 2021, when he retired from the sport.

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With Zehnder having been at Sauber since the start of their F1 journey in 1993, he’s had the chance to work with some unbelievable talent, although, Leclerc seemingly tops them all.

“Charles for me is a huge talent and probably the most perfect driver I’ve worked with,” Zehnder told RacingNews365.com.

“Looking at his eagerness to understand the sport, the technical side, questioning himself – probably every now and then a little bit too much – he’s got a very healthy portion of self-criticism.”

What separates Leclerc from the rest, though, is his ability to be self-critical after making an error.

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The Ferrari driver is often heard blaming himself rather than the team after making a mistake, as proven last season at the French Grand Prix, where his error saw him crash out of the lead.

This is a very different approach to Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who immediately blamed his car at the Australian Grand Prix after he beached his RB19 on his opening lap in Q1.

In Zehnder’s eyes, this “makes a difference”, with it being something that makes Leclerc a pleasure to work with.

“This for me makes a difference to a lot of drivers, not blaming someone else, it’s first blaming yourself,” he added.

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Leclerc’s patience has certainly been tested so far this year, though, with the Monegasque having only finished one race.

Leclerc retired whilst in third at the season-opener following a power unit failure, before finishing seventh in Saudi Arabia, only to then retire on the opening lap in Australia.

As a result, he is potentially already out of title contention, with his main focus now being on simply making it to the end of each race.