Gerhard Berger: Ferrari not ready for championship fight, but Charles Leclerc is
Former Grand Prix racer Gerhard Berger believes Ferrari lack some of Red Bull’s strengths in order to fight for the championship.
The veteran F1 racer, now DTM promoter, Berger believes Ferrari aren’t quite ready to win championships, but star driver Charles Leclerc is.
With Leclerc’s Austrian GP victory returning him to the position of being Max Verstappen’s closest rival in the Drivers’ Championship, the Monegasque has closed the gap between himself and Verstappen to 38 points, while Ferrari are 56 points behind Red Bull in the Constructors’.
Appearing on the F1 Nation podcast to preview the French Grand Prix alongside hosts Tom Clarkson and Damon Hill, Berger spoke about the current championship fight and said Red Bull and Max Verstappen are currently the standard setters.
“I think Verstappen is even better than last year,” Berger said.
“I think winning the championship takes a lot of pressure away from you. People say to me ‘Ferrari are doing so many mistakes’ and I say ‘well, last year, nobody would believe Ferrari would make such a big step forward on the technical side’.
“As a Ferrari fan, if you had the possibility to say ‘Ferrari are going to be second next year with such a car’, everybody would say ‘great’.
“But, now, they are trying to fight a championship but didn’t fight for a championship for years. So they are not ready yet to fight in the championship like Red Bull, who fought until the last race last year [and know] very small detail and what it means for the championship.”
Berger weighed up the strengths and weaknesses of the two main title protagonists, saying that Leclerc has a particular skill that’s setting him up well for keeping himself in the title hunt.
“Leclerc has impressed me with his talent, with his speed on one lap in qualifying – he’s doing very, very well,” Berger commented.
“In the racecraft, I have seen a little bit of advantage to Max, he is brilliant over the whole race, to use every possibility, he is very strong on overtaking, very strong in wheel-to-wheel fighting, he is very strong at reading the race.
“Combined with the strategy of Red Bull, who are extremely good, the good pitstops, I think it’s nearly an unbeatable package.
“In saying this, maybe the Ferrari has, in certain circumstances, a little bit of advantage and Leclerc is using it very well. He’s a super quick driver, super good.
“But, with the technical reliability issues they are having sometimes, you will see [Carlos] Sainz maybe taking points away as could have happened in the last race with the throttle issue. Sainz would have had the chance to win the race, and then this starts hurting them very much for the championship.
“So, with the position they’re in at the moment, I think they can take one or two years until the team is ready again to win the championship. That’s a normal procedure. [Anything] can happen and maybe the car is so good, they could win the championship already this year. But, if they really have to fight, Red Bull has an advantage from last year’s fighting for the championship.”
Asked directly whether Leclerc is ready to assume the mantle of champion, if the Ferrari F1-75 proves to have the measure of Red Bull’s RB18, Berger said he has some question marks but that Leclerc isn’t far off being able to answer them.
“He did one or two mistakes this year, which shouldn’t happen if you’re really serious for the championship,” he said.
“Imola, for instance,” he offered as an example when Leclerc spun off while chasing Sergio Perez for second place.
“Just finish in third and take the points. This is where Lewis [Hamilton] impressed me so much, Lewis is just always there. Whenever the door is open, he’s on the podium and takes the points as much as he can. Leclerc still needs a little bit of experience but, in general, is absolutely a guy that can win championships.”
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