Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has disregarded comparisons between Charles Leclerc and legendary Formula 1 racer Gilles Villeneuve.
Villeneuve took six wins and eight podiums in a career that spanned just over four seasons, and yielded a second-placed championship finish in 1979.
The Canadian was notorious for his nonchalant and, at times, perceivably arrogant approach to racing, but there was no denying the passion for racing that he had, as well as his tenacity to keep racing through the deepest adversity; his adventure on three wheels at the 1979 Dutch Grand Prix is plenty testament to that.
He won his home Canadian Grand Prix in 1978, four years before the circuit Il Notre-Dame was named in his honour following his horrific accident with Jochen Mass during qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix, which caused his tragic passing.
Accidents for Leclerc in Formula 1 have included Fernando Alonso hitting the halo over the Monegasque’s head in Belgium, a brake failure which put him into the back of Brendon Hartley in Monaco, and a nasty collision with the barrier in Saudi Arabia last year.
He was able to get up and walk away from all of them with next to no physical trauma, symbolic of the remarkable advancements that have been made to safety in the pinnacle of motorsport.
These moments have come along with four race victories in what has been an impressive opening five seasons thus far with Sauber and Ferrari in F1.
In the documentary “L’Aviatore,” which covers the life and career of Villeneuve, a comparison was made between himself and the current championship leader, but Binotto affirms that the different cars, safety parameters, circuits and more make such links extremely tenuous.
“It would be the same as comparing footballers from different eras,” said Binotto.
“Gilles was a brave driver, always on the limit.
“Talking about tactics and strategy was pointless with him and Enzo Ferrari fell in love with that. Compared to today, fortunately I don’t have to manage someone like Gilles.
“People often compare Gilles with Charles, but there is a big difference in the comparison with now: that is the risk these guys took. Before, an accident could take away their legs and feet.
“Today, fortunately, safety in Formula 1 has improved dramatically. Ferrari has been very active in this journey. If Gilles had raced in today’s cars, he would still be here. This is also a tribute to Formula 1 and to Ferrari that has always been instrumental in this growth.”
Leclerc has won two of the opening four rounds of the 2022 season for Ferrari, and leads Max Verstappen by 27 points in the Drivers’ Championship.
He and Ferrari head to Miami this weekend aiming for better fortunes than they suffered in Imola last time out, as Carlos Sainz was taken out on the first lap before Leclerc span into the barrier late on, costing himself a podium while Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez took a one-two for Red Bull.