Emerson Fittipaldi: Pressure from Ferrari fans got to Charles Leclerc


F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia - Qualifying

Carlos Sainz, left, and Charles Leclerc, right, both endured a difficult race at Imola (Photo: Getty)

Two-time Formula 1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi believes the pressure of the home crowd got to Charles Leclerc after the Ferrari driver’s costly mistake at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Championship leader Leclerc had won two of the opening three races of the 2022 season and was fully expected to add to his victories at the Imola Circuit in Italy on Sunday, in front of the jubilant Ferrari fans known as the Tifosi.

However, Leclerc proved no match for the Red Bull duo, with Max Verstappen taking the win ahead of teammate Sergio Perez, with McLaren’s Lando Norris a surprise third.

Speaking to VegasInsider, Fittipaldi said: ‘They’re [Ferrari] racing at home. Modena [where Ferrari’s headquarters are based] is half-an-hour from there [Imola]. That’s their home track.

‘Italy, tremendous pressure – on the team, on the mechanics, the engineers, the team managers, the drivers. I can imagine that Ferrari was under what I call tremendous pressure for racing. Incredible.

‘Everybody expected them to win – another extra pressure. Not just being there on their home but everybody expecting them to win created that extra pressure.’

Formula 1 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

Sainz Jr. crashed out on the first lap of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix (Photo: Getty)

Leclerc was on course for at least third, only to spin off the damp track towards the end of the race, eventually recovering to finish in sixth place.

His teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. fared even worse, however, crashing out on the opening lap after making contact with Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren.

‘I think Carlos tried too hard and Leclerc tried too hard,’ Fittipaldi added.

‘I think it was a mistake that anybody can do but being in Imola, being in Italy, being in the Ferrari team everybody, you know, makes a big thing about.

‘If it was another track, same situation, another country, it was not going to be as big, the reaction of the media, the press, the team and the fans.’

Leclerc has made costly errors like this before, however; having crashed during qualifying in Azerbaijan in 2019, he infamously remarked on the radio: ‘I am stupid.’

A number of critics feel that the 24-year-old’s lack of experience of title battles and struggles in dealing with pressure in the past could derail his chances of becoming Ferrari’s first world champion since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, but Fittipaldi disagrees.

He added: ‘Max and Checo Perez did a great job. They won the race on track. Well done.

‘My opinion is still the same. Ferrari are fast and they have a better chance of winning the Championship than Red Bull and we’ll see what happens in the next few races.’

Leclerc still leads the standings, 27 points ahead of Verstappen, and will be aiming to extend that advantage at the next race in Miami.

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