While Leclerc was in the doldrums, the Qualifying session for the Canadian Grand Prix was masterful for Verstappen securing pole. So, starting from pole, he had a golden opportunity to put space between himself and Leclerc in the championship. Ferrari’s plague of problems have resulted in an 80-point swing in the Dutchman’s favour in the championship over the last five races. Charles Leclerc has been bedevilled with Ferrari’s engine problems culminating in a very frustrating No Finish (DNF) in Azerbaijan. And the nightmare continued in Canada making the Saturday Qualifying session for Leclerc almost pointless.
The Monegasque driver had already been marked for a 10-place grid drop as the result of new control electronics. Worse, during final free practice on Saturday morning, the FIA announced that Leclerc will take a number of new power unit components for the remainder of the Montreal weekend. That meant that Leclerc had to start from the back row of the grid.
Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz has also taken a new internal combustion unit but under the rules his third and final of the season was allowed so he was not subject to any penalty.
Ferrari’s decision to give Leclerc a fresh engine for the Canadian GP comes after a run of two failures in the past three races after retiring from the lead in Spain and Azerbaijan with power unit problems. How frustrating for him.
Leclerc receiving these extra engine components means that with more than half the season to go he will likely have to take further penalties before the end of the season.
But Charles is ever optimistic noting the promising pace of the car that he believes will ultimately be highly competitive with Red Bull.
So what does someone with the heart of a champion do in the face of adversity and having to start from the back of the grid.
The Indomitable Spirit of Leclerc
He grits his teeth and attacks, even though he was stuck behind Ocon for a long time early in the race. But even as early as Lap 22 of the 70 laps one could see wonderful driving from Leclerc as he got past Bottas for seventh place at that point – that’s 12 places he had made up already.
Leclerc continued to power through the field with an impressive recovery drive with an ultimate fifth-place finish. In doing so he closed the overall gap on second placed Perez in the Championship to just three points.
Well done Charles, who but for another strategic error by Ferrari with a slow pit stop might have caught the Mercedes in front of him too!
Meanwhile Max Verstappen held off the challenge of Leclerc’s team-mate at Ferrari, Carlos Sainz, to triumph, further extending his lead atop the Formula One drivers’ championship. It had looked like another comfortable race for the Red Bull driver before AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda rammed into the wall on his exit from the pits on lap 49.
That resulted in the field bunching up on the exit of the safety car six laps later. A riveting battle between Verstappen and Sainz then took place. The gap was just a smidgeon over half a second heading into the final lap.
The reigning world champion prevailed over Sainz to secure his sixth win of the season and his second in a row after Azerbaijan. This latest victory moves him 46 points clear in the championship ahead of Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.
Champions in Adversity
Lewis Hamilton followed Charles Leclerc’s example by overcoming Mercedes’ car problems and serious back pain. He ended the weekend with his first podium finish with teammate George Russell right behind to secure a third-fourth finish for Mercedes.
There is a two-week break now before the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Ferrari really need to halt Red Bull’s charge there, if Charles Leclerc is to strongly relaunch his attack on the World Championship title.