After years in the doldrums, Ferrari seemed to have finally found a championship contender in Charles Leclerc – until a series of unfortunate events put a damper on his 2022 season. But maybe Leclerc’s 2022 title chances were doomed from the start…
The 24-year-old Monégasque emerged early in the season as reigning World Champion Max Verstappen’s biggest title rival (nosing out Lewis Hamilton thanks to the weakness of Mercedes’ 2022 car), even leading the championship fight for the first 5 races… But a series of blunders – some Ferrari’s fault, some his – have seen Verstappen overtake Leclerc in wins and points.
Verstappen is now a solid 80 points ahead of Leclerc with 9 races left in the season: not a completely insurmountable gap for Leclerc to close, but one that’ll be a serious challenge, particularly considering how on-form Verstappen is and how strong Red Bull’s car seems to be.
Yet history is not on Leclerc’s side, as WTF1 points out. The last 5 seasons have shown us that the driver who wins the season opener is doomed to come 2nd in the championship – which is not good news for Leclerc.
’17 – Vettel wins season opener – P2 in WDC— WTF1 (@wtf1official) August 23, 2022
’18 – Vettel wins season opener – P2 in WDC
’19 – Bottas wins season opener – P2 in WDC
’20 – Bottas wins season opener – P2 in WDC
’21 – Hamilton wins season opener – P2 in WDC
’22 – Leclerc wins season opener – Currently P2 in WDC
But as Mark Twain once wrote, “here are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” One only has to look back one more year to 2016 to see that this theory might not hold water – Nico Rosberg, who won the 2016 title, won the first race of the year. Same goes for Lewis Hamilton in 2015.
Indeed, if you look back at every F1 season of the 21st century, there have been 11 years where the driver that won the first race of the season went on to win the championship, compared to only 5 years where the driver that won the season opener went on to come 2nd in the championship.
Although that statement in itself is a creative way to frame statistics, too…
The 2022 Formula 1 World Championship starts back up this weekend with the Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, with lights out scheduled for 11pm AEST on Sunday, 28th August.
Spa is a circuit that’s historically been quite kind to Leclerc – indeed, it’s where he won his first ever F1 race back in 2019, becoming the first Monégasque driver to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Fingers crossed he can win again.