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Leclerc can go down in history as one of the greatest title comebacks

Leclerc can go down in history as one of the greatest title comebacks

9 August - 11:13
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GPblog.com

Max Verstappen started the summer break with a good feeling. The Dutchman has an ample lead in the drivers' championship of no less than eighty points. How real is the chance that rival Charles Leclerc can come back into the title race and take victory?

Verstappen currently leads the driver's championship by eighty points over title rival Leclerc. The Monegasque has already retired twice in the first half of the season due to reliability issues with the Ferrari engine. In France, Leclerc crashed out for the third time after his own mistake sent him into the wall.

Although Ferrari seem to have the strongest car in qualifying, the Italians have yet to convert their good result into Sunday's race. Verstappen has opened up a large gap in the championship, despite dropping out twice at the start of the season.

With ten races left on the calendar, Leclerc has a huge task ahead of him to close the gap to Verstappen. The Monegasque remains positive about his title chances, but when was the last time the number two in the championship managed to close such a gap after half a season?

Vettel, 2012 - 44 points (29 percent) behind Alonso

In the 2012 season, then Red Bull Racing driver Sebastian Vettel was 44 points behind his rival Fernando Alonso at mid-season. The season had twenty races. By comparison, after ten races in 2022, Leclerc was 43 points behind Verstappen. The Monegasque now has, like Vettel in 2012, ten races to make up a gap that is almost twice as big as that between Vettel and Alonso. However, the German took four wins in a row and eventually won the title by a margin of just three points.

Raikkonen, 2007 - 18 points (26 percent) behind Hamilton

In 2007, according to the old points system 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1, Raikkonen was eighteen points behind midway through the season. The gap was quite large, as there were fewer points to be earned under the old system. In the second half of the season, the gap increased to twenty points, but when the relationship within McLaren between Alonso and Lewis Hamilton deteriorated, Raikkonen was able to take advantage with two wins and three podiums. In the end, the Finn won the championship in the last race by a one-point margin.

Lauda, 1984 - 11.5 points (32 percent) behind Prost

That McLaren would win the title this season was clear. However, Alain Prost and Niki Lauda were involved in an exciting title battle until the end of the season. Prost eventually won seven races, while Lauda took home five victories. In the end, the Austrian won the title with only half a point difference, the smallest margin in the history of the sport.

Hunt, 1976 - 38 points (50 percent) behind Lauda

In 1976, James Hunt claimed the title on the final lap of the race. His rivalry with Lauda is now legendary. As reigning world champion, Lauda was the favourite of the season. Halfway through the season, he seemed to already have the title in his pocket with 52 points to his name, exactly double Hunt's.

Lauda's heavy crash in the German Grand Prix changed everything. The driver suffered severe burns and had to be hospitalised. His recovery was remarkable, for within six weeks he was racing again. Hunt won several races in Lauda's absence and the Briton went into the decisive race in Japan three points behind. Lauda withdrew in the atrocious weather, but Hunt managed to grab the third place needed to win the title.

Surtees, 1964 - 20 points (67 percent) behind Clark

The greatest comeback in F1 history is that of John Surtees. The season had ten races, but after five races Surtees was seventh in the championship and twenty points behind Clark. This gap is relatively the largest in the history of the sport with the point system 9-6-4-3-2-1. Jim Clark was leading with thirty points, but reliability problems caused the Briton to lose many points. In the very last race of the season, Clark's engine leaked oil and his car broke down on the last lap. Ferrari team-mate Lorenzo Bandini stepped aside to give Surtees the title with a second place and a difference of one point.

Can Leclerc still win the title?

If Leclerc is to have any chance of winning the title he will have to hope that Verstappen drops out of the race a few more times or finishes outside the points. Even if the Ferrari driver wins every race from now on, including the sprint race in Brazil, and Verstappen is second everywhere, the Dutchman will still win the title in Abu Dhabi. There is an 80-point difference between the two rivals, which is 31 per cent behind Verstappen's points tally. In short, if Leclerc does manage to win the world title, his victory will go down in the history books as one of the greatest comebacks in Formula 1. There are drivers who have won the title by a greater margin, so Leclerc need not give up hope just yet.

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