Opinion: Charles Leclerc’s time at Ferrari is now very similar to Kimi Räikkönen’s at McLaren

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2023 is Charles Leclerc’s fifth season as a driver for Scuderia Ferrari. He was signed to replace Kimi Räikkönen at the conclusion of the 2018 season.

The start to the current campaign has been a nightmare for Leclerc with his car breaking down at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

What has transpired in his spell with the Italian giants to date feels extremely similar to what Räikkönen went through during his five seasons with McLaren in the 2000s.

The start to the current season has been a nightmare for Leclerc with his car breaking down at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.


In the modern era of Formula One, we normally see incredible reliability. That leads to most cars getting to finish on a regular basis.

However, this is an area that has been massively costly for the Monégasque driver in the last 12 months. It was an all too familiar story 18 years earlier for a championship contender, too.

Leclerc retired from a very comfortable lead of over 10 seconds at the Spanish Grand Prix last year, Räikkönen suffered the same fate at Hockenheim in 2005.

At Baku and Imola respectively in those years, they were in the lead and likely going to the victory, until their cars packed in.

Grid penalties

The unreliability both suffered from had a knock-on effect as they had to take grid drops and ruined more race weekends for the Monégasque and Finn.

Leclerc in 2022 – Canada, Belgium and the United States

Raikkonen in 2005 – France, Britain, Italy and Japan

Other factors

It’s no secret that Leclerc did not lose victories only through unreliability last year.

Shocking and indefensible strategy calls at Monaco and Silverstone saw him lose two certain victories, and a potential one in Hungary as well.

For Raikkonen, tyre blowouts at Sepang and the Nurburgring, as well as a tyre delamination at Monza cost him points as well.

Not getting the equipment they deserve

2022 was the first time Leclerc had truly got a car that could challenge for race victories and the championship – at least that was the case before the summer break.

After a tricky start to 2005, McLaren ended up producing the fastest car on the grid that year for Räikkönen and Montoya. The Finn also went close to the championship two years earlier in spite of driving a year- old car.

But as described above, things went wrong for both due to various reasons.

But just like Räikkönen in his time at McLaren, Leclerc has been let down by his team quite often. They have not given him the machinery required to go for the championship over the course of a full season.

In the first half of 2004, Räikkönen had a shockingly slow car and one that was terribly unreliable. Leclerc suffered the same fate in 2020 with a car that was miles off the pace.

However, both delivered amazing performances in subpar packages, thoroughly outperforming drivers like Montoya, Coulthard and Vettel.

Going back to 2005 and 2006, the vast majority of people would have put Schumacher, Alonso and Räikkönen as their top three drivers on the grid in various order.

As of today, most view Leclerc in the elite group with Verstappen and Hamilton. 2023 seems to be another year of frustration ahead for the Monégasque, though. The car lacks a lot of pace compared to Red Bull on a Sunday, and it also proved to be unreliable in Bahrain.

Any kind of neutral watcher or writer wants the best drivers going at it on a consistent basis, like we saw with Hamilton versus Verstappen in 2021, or Leclerc versus Verstappen early last year.

Leclerc has clearly shown his natural talent and speed over the last few seasons. It’s getting wasted by his team. It’s now up to Ferrari to deliver for him before it’s too late.

Photos: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake