's Top 10 drivers of 2021 - #5 Charles Leclerc

With the 2021 Formula 1 season having come to a close, is running through its top 10 drivers of the year. Charles Leclerc enjoyed a stronger season than the final points standings suggest as he makes it into the top five.
Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari.
Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari.

Charles Leclerc was overtaken by Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship at the final race in Abu Dhabi.

Being beaten by your teammate - who is only in his first year with the team - wasn't great for Leclerc, who went into 2021 as Ferrari's team leader.

When you delve into the numbers, there is no doubt that Leclerc was the quicker of the two Ferraris - out-performing Sainz in both qualifying (13-9) and race trim (14-8) - but the Spaniard’s sheer consistency throughout the season allowed him to finish fifth in the drivers’ championship.

Leclerc shouldn't worry too much about being beaten by Sainz to fifth in the championship but should Ferrari produce a title-challenging car, 2021 would have been a very useful lesson for the Monegasque.

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-21 leads team mate Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-21.
Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-21 leads team mate Charles Leclerc (MON)…

Examining his 2021 campaign as a whole, Leclerc produced some of the finest moments of his career to date with several outstanding qualifying laps and a noticeable improvement in race trim.

His pole position laps in Monaco and Azerbaijan were spectacular, while he was unfortunate to lose out on the win to Lewis Hamilton at the British Grand Prix.

Without his shunt in Monaco - or Ferrari identifying the reliability issue that ruled him out of his home race - then Leclerc would have had a serious shot at the victory, but he was unable to start the race in the principality.

Leclerc did not taste champagne as often as his teammate, finishing in the top three just once compared to Sainz's four.

However, he did finish fourth on a remarkable six occasions in 2021 - little more he could do given Mercedes and Red Bull's sizeable advantage at times throughout the season.

On occasions, Leclerc over-eagerness did come back to bite with his crash in Monaco qualifying or his contact with Pierre Gasly on Lap 1 at the Red Bull Ring costing him crucial points.

Leclerc was unfortunate to be taken out by Lance Stroll at the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix, while he was one of several drivers not to switch to intermediates at the right moment in Sochi.

A combination of bad luck and over-aggressive driving cost Leclerc fifth in the drivers' championship, but in the grand scheme of things, it should serve a useful lesson.

With Ferrari likely to be even more competitive in 2022 when F1 embarks on its new era, Leclerc might have his first opportunity at winning the title.

As proven in 2021, Sainz is no pushover, and with another year under his belt, he will be a greater force next year.

There's no doubt that Leclerc is the quicker and the more talented driver, but as we've seen in the past with Lewis Hamilton up against Jenson Button or Nico Rosberg - talent doesn't necessarily come out on top.

While the final championship standings are slightly disappointing for Leclerc on paper, he still has enjoyed another impressive year for the Scuderia.

2021 has been a timely reminder for Leclerc that maximising every weekend is a crucial lesson going into next year when Ferrari might just be the team to beat.

Read More