Norbert Haug backs Charles Leclerc to take ‘another step’ after Melbourne

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Ex-Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug expects Charles Leclerc to up his game even further after his Australian GP dominance.

Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen find themselves battling at the front early in 2022, Leclerc already sitting pretty at the top of the Drivers’ Championship, though Verstappen would have occupied P2 right now if pace alone decided.

But instead, he finds himself down in P6 after retiring while running P2 at both the Bahrain and Australian GPs.

The Dutchman made his frustrations clear after that Australia DNF, saying Red Bull can not expect to challenge for the title if they do not make the RB18 reliable.

Already the deficits are concerning, with Verstappen 46 points behind Leclerc in the Drivers’ standings and Red Bull 49 points adrift in the Constructors’.

Haug, speaking in the AvD Motor & Sport magazine on SPORT1, stressed that this does not mean that Red Bull “can’t get their act together”, however, while there are still a potential 20 races to go, it is “still a race against time” for Red Bull to recover that lost ground.

Max Verstappen stands beside his broken down Red Bull after retiring from the Australian Grand Prix. Melbourne April 2022.

The Australian Grand Prix was particularly concerning though for Red Bull as not only did reliability let Verstappen down again, but the RB18 on that outing also could not find an answer to the pace of the F1-75.

Leclerc took pole, the win, fastest lap of the race and led every lap, the grand slam in Formula 1.

“It looks like dominance,” Haug commented on Ferrari’s early showings, with Leclerc having won two of the opening three races.

And after that display at Albert Park, Haug is backing Leclerc to gain even more confidence and take another step forward.

“That gives him quite a huge confidence, we will see another step,” Haug predicted.

“He looked more superior than in any other race before.”

 

Verstappen and Leclerc were no strangers to each other on the karting scene, a time which did not pass without clashes, while even in Formula 1, the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix served to create a spark again, Leclerc vowing to be more aggressive as he moved on from that defeat.

But, with both drivers now finding themselves in title contention, the potential is there for some fireworks.

That is yet to materialise though, with both drivers showing sportsmanship on and off the track, keeping their thrilling battles in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia clean, which was at times not the case for Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in 2021 as they dueled over the title.

This, Haug believes, is a “generational change”.

“They know and appreciate each other,” he said.

“When you hug each other, that’s sportsmanship. There’s a different speed, even off the track. It’s a generational change.”

 

 





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