A commanding victory and second-place finish in the opening two races of the season in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have launched Leclerc into the lead of the world championship for the first time in his F1 career. 

Leclerc’s impressive start to the season led Ferrari ambassador Marc Gene to state that the team is now seeing a “2.0 version” of the Monegasque, who Gene believes has evolved in both “mindset and mentality” going into 2022. 

Asked whether he agreed with Gene’s comments about Leclerc becoming more mature in the latest episode of the Crash.net F1 podcast, F1 commentator Edwards said: “It’s an interesting one because I’ve been impressed by Leclerc from the beginning when he came in and was Vettel’s teammate.

“I know there was a little bit of rawness in him and there have been mistakes by him, and there were some last year. 

“But I’m not sure I suddenly see this maturity in him. I’ve been impressed with him from the start. I think last year he over-tried a few times. He got that pole in Monaco but couldn’t actually start the race after they discovered the damage. 

“I think he was pushing super hard last year because what else could he do? Now they are in a different position, so I think the mindset is different now. 

“In a way we are seeing that maturity but I think in a way it was already there. As a person, a young man who lost his dad from an early age. A dad who supported his racing throughout and a lot of people have said to me that he has a really grounded sense to him. 

“I think it’s just now he’s in a car that’s in the right place, he can apply himself totally to it and that's what we are seeing. 

“Whether he has matured or not, I don’t know. Marc Gene may well be right but I think we are seeing a real contender.” 

Can Ferrari actually fight for this year’s title? 

Ferrari’s much-improved F1-75 package appears to have put it well in the hunt for a first world title since 2008. 

But the Italian outfit has been here before. Ferrari made encouraging starts in both 2017 and 2018 before its championship bid fell apart due to a combination of team mistakes, reliability issues and driver errors. 

So does Ferrari now finally have a car and driver pairing that is actually capable of ending its drought for F1 silverware in 2022? 

“I think there’s no doubt that Ferrari are in probably the best place they have been for years,” says Crash.net F1 Editor Lewis Larkam. 

“It’s clear the car is quick, they have two great drivers and so far have delivered in both races. But as we’ve seen in the past, things tend to tail away and the season, for one reason or another, seems to fall apart when it comes to sustaining that title bid. 

“So that’s really the big question mark with Ferrari this season, can they sustain it? But I think there’s no doubt that they are in the best position they’ve been for a considerable amount of time.”

In-season development is also set to play a key factor in determining which team will ultimately emerge on top at the end of a record-breaking 23-round season. 

“Mattia has talked about them talking a cautious approach with the upgrade situation, which is a direct consequence of the budget cap,” Larkam added. 

“All the teams have this balancing act with the development side of things and the Ferrari has gone pretty much undeveloped since the first test in Barcelona. They have a really good baseline with that car and they are really confident it’s in a good place. 

"But think one of the big question marks is how is that going to change as the season goes on when you’ve got Mercedes potentially sorting out their problems and potentially catching up, and how aggressive will Red Bull be with their development? 

“That’s one of the key things to keep an eye on as the season goes on, how the development war will potentially change the pecking order.”

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