Leclerc having negative impact on Ferrari, says Villeneuve
Charles Leclerc's popularity is causing a problem for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari, according to former Formula 1 champion Jacques Villeneuve. Both Leclerc and Vettel have made errors already this season, but Villeneuve says the treatment of the drivers is unequal.
Vettel spun out of contention in Bahrain, a race that Leclerc lost a likely win in due to engine failure, while the Monegasque's crash in Azerbaijan last weekend put paid to his hopes, having looked on form for a big result up to that point.
While Vettel has been harshly criticised for a series of on-track mess-ups, the reaction to Leclerc's incident was markedly different, with many onlookers – including former champion Nico Rosberg – instead blaming Ferrari's qualifying strategy.
"If you listen to any fan or go on the forums, even the qualifying accident [in Baku], Leclerc doesn't get criticised," Villeneuve told Motorsport.com.
"If it had been Vettel, he would have been destroyed by the media and everyone, for the same mistake.
"Ultimately I think that's having a negative effect for the team. Seb's spin in Bahrain came because of that, then the team orders in China, it all comes from there.
"And Leclerc's accident in qualifying also, wanting to prove that he's the number one of the team. Ultimately that's damaging the whole team.
"I hope it re-balances out, because they should have been the one that's being chased by Mercedes, and instead they've got three podiums, and that's it. It's not had a good positive effect on the team, that's all."
The 1997 world drivers' champion says while Leclerc is benefitting from the situation, Ferrari's reputation is buckling under the strain.
"Leclerc is quick, he personally is ready," Villeneuve said. "It's Ferrari that's not ready for this kind of situation.
"If you take Leclerc's perspective, it's great to be there this year, for him it's amazing, and he's shown that he's super quick.
"But if you take Ferrari as a team, you have to look at Vettel's past, and you have to remember Ricciardo when he joined Red Bull. Seb needs to know that he's loved by the team, and by the fans, and that's gone this year."
GPFans is a multi-platform, multi-language brand dedicated to Formula One coverage. We bring you all the ins and outs of the sport, 24/7, everything from up-to-the-minute news and features to the latest viral stories and clips.
We believe that a new generation of exciting, outspoken drivers will make F1 more popular than ever before, and we want to give our users access to as much of their heroes as possible, on and off the track. From Lewis Hamilton to Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo to Sebastian Vettel, we provide in-depth analysis of every every Grand Prix in the season, from Australia to Abu Dhabi.
With Formula One under the new ownership of Liberty Media, how the sport is being covered is evolving, and GPFans will look to be at the heart of this progression into new media, as one of the fastest-growing sites covering the king of motorsports.