MotoGP champion feels Ferrari ace Charles Leclerc is on Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton’s ‘level’
2022 MotoGP champion Francesco Bagnaia believes Charles Leclerc is on the same level as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Bagnaia can relate to Leclerc, as he claimed that the Monegasque driver always gives his 100% in races.
Leclerc hasn't had an ideal start to the 2023 season, having dropped out of Bahrain's season opener due to a reliability issue. The 25-year-old received a penalty in Jeddah, forcing him to start the race in P12.
Despite his woes, Bagnaia believes the Ferrari driver is on par with Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in terms of skill.
Speaking about his F1 idol, Pecco Bagnaia told the Italian wing of Sky Sports:
“It is certainly a very difficult time for him, because in my opinion Leclerc is at the level of Verstappen and Hamilton. I identified myself with him, he is extremely strong, capable, he will always give 100% with what he has, for me he is a champion, he knows that Ferrari is trying to give him the maximum.”
While the numbers currently aren't in Charles Leclerc's favor, the 25-year-old will look to match up to Verstappen and Hamilton in the future.
Charles Leclerc admits Ferrari's deficit to frontrunners
Charles Leclerc has stressed the importance of the team making a substantial effort to uncover performance and speed in their SF-23 car for 2023.
During the Saudi Arabian GP, Leclerc began the race in P12 but started the race well, propelling himself into the top ten after a few laps. However, his momentum was disrupted by the mid-race safety car, which enabled Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton to overtake him.
In an interview with Sky Sports, Leclerc mentioned that he was stuck behind his teammate Carlos Sainz for the remainder of the race and did not have much pace. He said:
"I don’t know if they were out of reach. The thing is that once I got within a second and a half to Carlos, it was very difficult to get any closer than that – the pace difference wasn’t big enough. I did a small mistake when I was within DRS, and then when I lost it, then that was it."
"I just stayed there. So it’s like this. Honestly, I don’t think there was much more anyway in the car today. We just need to work to find some pace."
With more than 20 races to go this year, there is still plenty of time for Ferrari to give Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz a car capable of dethroning Max Verstappen and Red Bull.