How on earth has Charles Leclerc’s 2022 Formula 1 season gotten to this point?
For the first three races of the season, Ferrari’s future star looked like this year could finally be the one where he would be unquestionably the main challenger to Max Verstappen for the 2022 title.
After a dominant win at the opening race in Bahrain, a hard fought second against Verstappen on the streets of Jeddah and a consummate victory in Australia, you would have found few willing to bet on him not having another win under his belt since.
And yet, that is exactly how things have panned out.
Outside of finishing a distant second to Verstappen in Miami, Leclerc has not had another podium.
Instead, a series of individual mistakes, issues with the car and – more significantly – disastrous team strategy calls, have left the Monegasque falling behind Red Bull No.2 Sergio Perez in the Driver Standings.
Since Miami, Leclerc has endured two DNFs in Spain and Azerbaijan due to engine problems, the latter of which forced him over the limit of permitted engine parts and incurred a grid penalty in Canada which put paid to any hopes of a maiden victory in Montreal.
But those races are not the ones which will have bothered Leclerc the most.
Ferrari strategy calls
Rather it is the loss of two clear opportunities at race wins in Monaco and last weekend at the 2022 British GP which have caused the driver to openly criticise the team’s calls.
Once is a mistake, twice begins to become a pattern.
And Leclerc’s frustrations after slipping from the race lead before the late safety car at Silverstone to fourth and off the podium may prove to be a tipping point.
Why Ferrari chose to pit Carlos Sainz for fresh tyres in what proved to be a race winning move while leaving their No.1 driver out on used hards as all around him switched to fresh rubber during the safety car remains something of a mystery.
Leclerc had a clear opportunity to pit as Sainz and Lewis Hamilton around him had done, but the team took a huge gamble by leaving him out and ultimately threw away what would have been a vital and confidence boosting race win.
Instead, Leclerc left Silverstone frustrated once more, following on from the confusing radio calls and strategy in Monaco which similarly cost the driver a maiden home victory.
After the race, pictures were widely shown of Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto waving his finger at an irate looking Leclerc.
Given the driver had questioned the wisdom of the team’s decisions during the race, which included keeping him behind a slower-running Sainz for long periods in the first stint, many have read into the exchange and concluded that all is not well at Maranello.
And given what has happened this year, Leclerc could be judged as well within his rights to feel exasperated by the team’s decisions hurting his title challenges.
For his part, Leclerc merely said that Binotto was offering some words of comfort and encouragement, but the feeling that all is not well in the Ferrari garage is beginning to grow.
The young Monegasque was typically self-effacing and humble in his interviews after the race, urging everyone to focus on what was a hard-earned maiden F1 victory for Sainz.
But with mistakes not of his own making beginning to compound and affect his title challenge, Leclerc’s patience won’t last forever.