F1 news cycles periodically feature headlines of Charles Leclerc’s misfortunes, with the Monegasque open to all solutions to change his luck.
For all the technical complexities involved in Formula 1, luck plays an important role. Careers can be decided by team selections and regulation changes, with fine margins making all the difference. Quantifying misfortune is always a difficult task, but it’s fair to say that 2023 has been a rough year for Leclerc.
The 26-year-old retired from third place at the season opener in Bahrain, perhaps an omen of the year to come. Not only did Leclerc record a DNF, but he suffered a grid penalty in the following round. Without even reaching round three, crucial points were already sent down the drain.
In the most recent episode for the Monegasue, he found himself in the barriers during the formation lap in Brazil. Although the exact cause is unknown, Ferrari identified a hydraulic failure – resulting in a loss of power steering. After qualifying impressively to start the race in P2, another opportunity to score points was thrown away.
Leclerc suggests Lourdes visit
With Ferrari only 20 points behind Mercedes, the Brazilian GP was a chance to close the gap significantly. Carlos Sainz finished ahead of both Mercedes, who were in abysmal form. Had Leclerc also crossed the chequered flag, it seems reasonable the deficit could have been cut to less than 10 points.
Ultimately, these hypotheticals won’t satisfy Leclerc, who suggested a drastic solution to his difficulties:
“I’m going to Los Angeles, but maybe I’ll move my flight to go to Lourdes beforehand – to get a bit of luck.”
Needless to say, Leclerc’s idea to visit a religious site is evidence of the tough spell he is experiencing this season.
Ferrari’s weaknesses must be addressed
Unfortunately for the Maranello-based outfit, there are still significant weaknesses to rectify. The most obvious is reliability. Aside from the SF-23’s mechanical failures, there are more systemic issues with the Italian machine. Cooling is always an issue when Ferrari compete at altitudes, very often forced to lift and coast in a bid to preserve the engine.
To sustain a battle with Red Bull for an F1 Championship, such vulnerabilities cannot persist in 2024. Alongside the subject of raw performance, tyre limitations are still significant. Although Mercedes also suffered poor tyre wear at Interlagos, this doesn’t take away this inherent problem with the SF-23.
Leclerc’s season is a good case study into the areas Ferrari must address. As evidenced most recently in COTA, speed alone is not enough. Teams must also be operationally excellent, or else they risk giving away crucial margins.