Top 50 Drivers of 2021
Topic

Top 50 Drivers of 2021

Autosport 2021 Top 50: #6 Charles Leclerc

7th in Formula 1 World Championship

Autosport 2021 Top 50: #6 Charles Leclerc

Charles Leclerc came close to ending Ferrari’s victory drought on three occasions and beat Carlos Sainz Jr in the qualifying head-to-head come the year’s end.

His qualifying speed was evident from the off with two early poles, and he regularly disrupted things for the top two teams in races. Ferrari still feels he needs to up his game on technical feedback and cut out the occasional qualifying error such as that Monaco Q3 crash.

PLUS: Why Ferrari is sure its long-term Leclerc investment will be vindicated

He felt Austin was a faultless weekend, but Silverstone and the way he fended off Hamilton for so long with an ailing engine was just remarkable. Don’t forget the no-stop win attempt in Turkey either.

Leclerc's near wins in 2021 for Ferrari

1. Monaco

The best chance of a Ferrari victory – and also its most-painful near miss. The team was in the hunt thanks to the SF21’s prowess over bumps and kerbs with is compliant front end, with both drivers showing strong pace. Leclerc got the upper hand over Sainz with second in Q1 and leading Q2, and was ahead again after the opening Q3 runs after Max Verstappen lost momentum exiting the chicane.

Cooler temperatures meant harder warm-up laps were needed and there was little track evolution. But Leclerc pushed too hard after being unable to replicate his sector one pace and clipped the inside barrier at the Swimming Pool.

His crash prevented Verstappen and others going quicker, which meant he sealed pole at a track where overtaking his near-impossible. But Ferrari not spotting the broken left-rear driveshaft hub and Leclerc therefore being unable to take the start meant his record finishing record in his home city is now 0-5.

Legacy damage suffered in Monaco qualifying shunt meant Leclerc didn't get to start from pole

Legacy damage suffered in Monaco qualifying shunt meant Leclerc didn't get to start from pole

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

2. Silverstone

The closest Ferrari came to a win in 2021 at a circuit where Leclerc excels. He qualified fourth once Sergio Perez lost his best Q3 time and backed that up in a straightforward sprint race adrift of the leaders. When Valtteri Bottas made a wheel-spin heavy start, Leclerc shot ahead and capitalised on the controversy at Copse.

He aced the second start ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s repaired Mercedes, then kept it at bay on the mediums – displaying unexpectedly strong tyre management. He did this all through an engine mapping management system error meaning intermittent power cuts that he had to alleviate.

But his pace was worse than Hamilton’s once they switched to the hards and although he slipped wide at Copse, the Mercedes was always coming by.

3. Turkey

The most-unlikely victory chance, but one that still showed Leclerc’s talents. He’d qualified an excellent fourth, but even more impressively had only fallen to 8s behind leaders Bottas and Verstappen during the course of the opening race stint in the wet on the tricky Istanbul surface.

Having cycled into the lead when they stopped, he asked Ferrari if an audacious no-stopper was on. They went for it, with Leclerc’s pace holding up until Bottas’s new inters went through the graining phase and he was simply unstoppable, as was Perez, who overcame Leclerc late-on to drop him off the podium in fourth.

shares
comments

Related video

Autosport 2021 Top 50: #5 Alex Palou
Previous article

Autosport 2021 Top 50: #5 Alex Palou

Next article

Autosport 2021 Top 50: #7 Carlos Sainz Jr

Autosport 2021 Top 50: #7 Carlos Sainz Jr
Porsche’s hopeful Le Mans future meets its illustrious past Plus

Porsche’s hopeful Le Mans future meets its illustrious past

Rising sportscar star Adam Smalley had to pinch himself when offered the chance to drive the car that won the world’s most famous enduro in 1987

Historics
Sep 6, 2022
Why romanticism isn't the key factor in Lola’s racing return Plus

Why romanticism isn't the key factor in Lola’s racing return

The iconic Lola name is being relaunched after it was taken over by new ownership. Part of that reboot is a planned return to racing, though the exact details of this are still to be finalised - though its new owner does have a desire to bring the brand back to the Le Mans 24 Hours. But romanticism doesn't appear to be the driving force behind this renewed project...

General
Jul 14, 2022
Rating the best drivers of the century so far Plus

Rating the best drivers of the century so far

Autosport's Top 50 feature has been a staple of the magazine for the past two decades since its first appearance in 2002. Here are the drivers that have featured most prevalently during that time

General
Jan 7, 2022
The best motorsport moments of 2021 Plus

The best motorsport moments of 2021

Motorsport produced one of its greatest years of all-time in 2021 despite a backdrop of ongoing COVID-19 challenges and an ever-changing racing landscape. Through the non-stop action Autosport has collected the finest moments from the past 12 months to highlight the incredible drama and joy motorsport generates

General
Dec 31, 2021
The racing comeback artists who resurrected long-dormant careers Plus

The racing comeback artists who resurrected long-dormant careers

Making it in motorsport can be tough, and sometimes drivers move elsewhere before their best chance arrives. Here are some of those who made it back

General
Dec 26, 2021
The hidden racing gem attracting ex-F1 heroes Plus

The hidden racing gem attracting ex-F1 heroes

It’s rarely mentioned when it comes to assessing the best national contests, but the Brazilian Stock Car series that reaches its climax this weekend has an ever-growing appeal. Its expanding roster of ex-Formula 1 names has helped to draw in new fans, but it's the closeness of competition that keeps them watching

General
Dec 10, 2021
The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under Plus

The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under

Joey Mawson made waves in the middle of the last decade, beating future Haas Formula 1 driver Mick Schumacher - among other highly-rated talents - to the 2016 German F4 title. A run in F1's feeder GP3 category only caused his career to stall, but now back in Australia Mawson's S5000 title success has set that to rights

General
May 8, 2021
The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing Plus

The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing

OPINION: The greed-driven push for a European Super League that threatened to tear football apart is collapsing at the seams. Motor racing's equivalent, the football-themed Superleague Formula series of 2008-11, was everything that the proposed ESL never could be

General
Apr 21, 2021