Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc, Silverstone, 2018

Leclerc will be a title contender next year – Ocon

2019 F1 season

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Charles Leclerc will be a championship contender in the 2019 F1 season according to his long-time rival Esteban Ocon.

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Ferrari has appointed Leclerc to its team following his impressive debut season for Sauber this year. He has joined Sebastian Vettel, who finished second in the championship for the last two seasons.

“I think Charles will fight for the title next year for sure,” said Ocon. “At least it won’t be a surprise to me.”

Ocon said he rates Leclerc as one of the quickest drivers in Formula 1.

“I know him pretty well. The first race we raced together was in 2005 in mini-karts we were seven, eight years old. And we were first and second and I was on the inside and we crashed in the last corner of the last lap so he didn’t finish and I finished like sixth or seventh. That was the first time we met and all our career we’ve been fighting like this together.

“I knew he had a very good talent from day one. He’s one of the quickest guys out there. I think he will show that next year, definitely.”

Ocon has lost his F1 race seat this year but hopes the success of drivers like Leclerc and new Red Bull signing Pierre Gasly encourages more teams to consider signing younger drivers.

“I think you will see that Pierre and Charles are going to fight for wins and podiums. Probably the mentality of Formula 1 is going to change with that, seeing that young drivers can do the job too. That’s going to only help the younger ones coming in.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he reported from 300 grands prix plus other categories...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 40 comments on “Leclerc will be a title contender next year – Ocon”

    1. Every Merc and Ferrari drivers should be a championship contender in the 2019. At least until midterm when one or two of them had been assign as a wingman.

    2. the success of drivers like Leclerc and new Red Bull signing Pierre Gasly encourages more teams to consider signing younger drivers.

      He totally ignored Verstappen (not the first time this year). Max is younger than Gasly, and has only a few weeks on Leclerc.

      1. I wonder why…? 🤔

        1. @coldfly @phylyp Keep in mind the context of his words – he was talking about drivers getting a chance to prove themselves. Verstappen has been in that position since 2016. Ocon said: “I think you will see that Pierre and Charles are going to fight for wins and podiums” – you can’t say that in the same way about Verstappen because he’s already taken many wins and podiums.

          1. @keithcollantine, that makes it even weirder.
            How can he say that “the mentality of Formula 1 is going to change”, when a younger driver has been fighting for wins for almost 3 years already.
            Factually, it is even going the other way ;)

            But, I don’t think there are any bad intentions/feelings in his statements. Most of us forget how young Verstappen still is.

            1. Verstappen was from the very start considered a “One off a kind”

              Teams weren’t lining up to hire 17 year olds to drive their cars, just because one kid did it.
              The culture, if you will, wont change from “One off” situation. We need 2-3 youngsters to do what Verstappen has already done. Keeping that in mind, Verstappen will never be in that equation, he was a very rare and special case.

              Verstappen has showed them the door, it up to Lecler, Gasly and possibly Ocon to open it. After that I am sure more will follow.

            2. Verstappen has showed them the door, it up to Lecler, Gasly and possibly Ocon to open it.

              great comment, @kelvin38

              Although Ocon might be too old to be considered a ‘doorman’ when he finally gets his competitive car debut (even Vettel was younger).

      2. Eathan Haywood
        17th December 2018, 9:18

        I think it’s more the fact that there’s a trend of young drivers now thanks to teams snatching up Leclerc and Gasly; but I do think the aforementioned drivers being signed is probably thanks to Verstappen standing out as a young talent throughout his F1 career.

    3. Ocon been crashing since the beginning huh

      1. Usually his team mate hitting him, he hasn’t caused many collisions really. Brazil he did of course.

    4. At least Mercedes will have a seat for Ocon next year. Their Formula E team will need a reserve.

    5. I hope Leclerc can handle the pressure that is coming from all around the F1 world now when he steps up. He seems really humble and like a nice guy (countrary to the other young guy at the top end), so I really hope he can keep it together and deliver some nice results next year.

      1. Yeah.. I think his speed is unquestionable, but the mental readiness for a championship fight is still a bit of a question mark. Personally, the only driver I’ve seen come in to F1 with a championship ready mentality (and opportunity) has been Hamilton. I think Leclerc has a lot of similar traits to Lewis in terms of composure, so let’s hope he isn’t fazed by the opportunity next year.

        If he starts beating Vettel in the first Half of the season, then it’s going to be really interesting viewing. The most important thing for him is to get off to a good start. If he starts finding his footing mid season, he’ll already have been pushed down to a supporting driver role for the rest of the season.

        1. And do not forget the pressure of the Italian press. Together with the internal politcs at Ferrari a devastating mixture for a young talented driver.

          1. erikje: Good point.

            It’s why traditionally Ferrari only hires older, more experienced drivers. Although that same environment can make young drivers age faster. So they become older, more ‘experienced’ drivers in a single season.

    6. I agree with him. I also expect Leclerc to be a title contender next season.

      1. He cant be worse than Kimi so yes he will be a contender unless out of the blue Ferrari drops the ball (again).

    7. Ocon’s racecraft at least is consistent, it’s bad since his karting days

      He might fight for the title too, in his playstation

      1. He recently thought he was fighting for the lead.

    8. GtisBetter (@passingisoverrated)
      17th December 2018, 11:23

      I doubt it. It’s all about the little things and then experience pays of huge for Vettel. And Hamilton for that matter. And Ferrari is a very hectic place both on the track and off.

      1. That experience hasnt payed of at all sofar and Vettels even more experienced teammate just got sacked for this guy.

    9. Its ironic- Nigel Mansell won a World Championship at 39 yet we now have 4 such young talents at 21!
      Ocon wont drive next year of course (but he should be) but we have 4 guys (Max has 5 wins 3 years before Senna raced F1) but yet we still have pay drivers!

      I have no doubt Charles Leclerc can challenge for the title next year!

    10. I will be in a wait and see mode. Leclerc is completely unproven in terms of his ability to handle pressure, although he will be in a relatively low pressure situation next year. Lag behind SV and it’s no surprise. Match or beat him and it’s gravy.

      But what I find strange is the assumption by some that he is just going to come in and cakewalk it. Because of a few shining moments in a single year with Sauber. Or perhaps just because he has been signed by Ferrari. Immediately challenge for the title? Immediately best SV? I must still be stuck in the dark ages when F1 was supposed to be hard. And what happened to Ferrari’s famous one-rooster mentality? KR, a WDC, has been slagged around here constantly for being SV’s wingman. Suddenly that possibility is not even on the radar for those stoked about Leclerc? They hired this relative rookie to be the number one at Ferrari?

      I think Max is an exception…a true notch above…and let’s remember the warning shot that JV gave when he cautioned that F1 does not want to make itself into a series that looks too easy, if 17 year olds can do it. As soon as Max was officially hired to STR JV opined that that is a dangerous precedent. And he was right as they immediately raised the age and the requirements one must have to enter F1.

      Ocon thinks Leclerc and Gasly will set some trend to show other youngsters they can do it too. Liberty and Brawn should be making F1 challenging enough for the drivers (and I think they are heading there) that one needs much more experience than Leclerc and Gasly have right now. Do we really want F1 to become easier and easier such that any youngster can come in and immediately have an impact? Or should the series be much more enthralling and challenging than that, such that we know that once a driver does get some wins and even a WDC, it was a great feat to do so?

      I think Max is an anomaly, and I hope for the sake of F1 that Leclerc and Gasly will have a healthy level of struggle and learning curve, at least if F1 is to be the enthralling series we all want it to be.

      1. @robbie

        Do we really want F1 to become easier and easier such that any youngster can come in and immediately have an impact?

        What’s wrong with a youngster coming in and playing ball with the big boys? I don’t see how that does anything other than add value to the sport. Max has been the most exciting addition to F1 in the past few years… and it would be great to see new drivers who can come in and shake the sport up. Heck, it happens in tennis, football and other sports and I don’t see anyone complaining about it. It’s not like Football became easier as a sport when Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar entered at a young age.

        1. @todfod I don’t think you can compare to the other sports you have mentioned, because they don’t involve needing an ingredient such as hundreds of millions worth of car and support team. In those sports their integrity isn’t harmed when young athletes come in and do well, they add to the sport. With everyone having exactly the same equipment it becomes about the athletes alone, even when they are on a team of individuals.

          Max adds to the sport, as he is most exciting to watch, coming from another level. But have too many young ones come in and master it quickly, and the sense becomes that F1 is easy. That’s where I disagree with Ocon. I want F1 to be more challenging than he wants, because I think that’s how we separate the Max’s from the rest of the young drivers. Thankfully some of the young drivers have been dropped from teams and from F1 for underperforming, when they haven’t just swooped in and mastered F1. And anyway I suspect Leclerc and Gasly will indeed show us that F1 is not a cakewalk. And come 2021, I expect that to be even moreso the case. F1 would be better off if we weren’t hearing every year about some ‘youngest ever’ record being broken or another, like that is the goal. Those records should be rarely broken by anomalies such as Max, but not on an annual basis by the next young driver to enter, like it’s expected just because he is now in F1.

          1. @robbie

            Honestly.. I don’t quite get how it harms the “integrity” of the sport. A top F1 team wouldn’t hire a young gun if he didn’t have the talent… kind of the same way Man Utd. wouldn’t hire a young Ronaldo. A Max or a Leclerc have gotten top drives because regardless of their age and experience because they have the talent. I would much rather see a young driver with oodles of talent in a top seat instead of an experienced but slow driver wasting a top seat. Just think about how exciting the championship could have been if we had a Max Verstappen or Charles Leclerc in that Ferrari instead of Kimi. It adds value to the sport to see new names and exciting characters instead of the same few faces in their long terms contracts. Predicability is one of F1’s biggest challenges.. and getting in new blood in top teams is a great way to keep fans interested.

            Wouldn’t the best person for the job in the best possible seat be the best solution? Regardless of age and experience?

            1. @todfod For sure I agree on the best possible drivers for the best seats. I just think the job should be harder such that on average it takes more experience and thus a higher age, before one can tackle the task or be talked of as a 4-time WDC beater, rather than simply getting the seat suddenly elevating him to being that. I’d like to think they hired Leclerc to be their future, but for now he has everything to prove and SV is still the veteran on the team. Ocon seems to forget that and already jumps to that Leclerc and Gasly have shown that youngsters can do it too. Do what? In an F1 that I would like to see the ‘do what’ is to work toward the top in a challenging and hard fought way, not just be verbally handed trophies ahead of time without doing the work or proving they can handle pressure when it is at it’s greatest.

            2. @robbie

              I don’t know man. Got to agree to disagree with you on this one.

              No one’s handing Leclerc anything. Nor is he undermining the sport by going to Ferrari. If he can beat a 4 time WDC in his first season against him, then he’s the better driver. There’s no need to change the natural order of things.

              I think you’re not happy about the talk of young drivers challenging veterans.. Which honestly is just hype and ball talk. The real test is when they’re on track in the same machinery. Regarding the FIA making it difficult for newcomers.. I just don’t think they need to do it. Let the teams decide for themselves whether they want a young gun in the seat or a seasoned veteran. In the end pick the best driver to get the job done.

            3. @todfod Yeah that’s fair comment. It’s just that what Ocon said made me immediately think of JV’s commentary when Max was signed at 17, and he considered that not good for F1 to have a reputation as being something 17 year olds can enter a do, like it is not that hard. There should be a mystique to it. And sure enough not long after Max they raised the age and the requirements to get in. I don’t have anything against any of the young guns, but I speak more with JV’s sentiment in mind. I would not mind seeing F1 harder such that teams would be less tempted to just take the next young gun before someone else does, and hope for the best. Overall I just hope for a harder more enthralling F1 that really shows us the men from the boys and shows us they are achieving great feats.

    11. @robbie
      If he starts to lag behind Vettel he will find himself in a Bottas situation and i wouldnt exactly call that low pressure.

      “Kids” are quick and their bodys and mind are in their prime. If anything i think F1 is harder than ever with all these young and well trained talents coming in. The old guard certainly feels the pressure and i feel the thrill.

      1. @rethla Of course there will be various pressures at times, some ever present, but he won’t likely be experiencing the biggest of pressures next year, unless of course he is somehow fighting for wins and the WDC, and I just find that hard to imagine. I’d have to see it to believe it.

        I reiterate that to me if the young ones can come in and immediately be a threat to the old guard, then F1 is devalued as a spectacle and needs to be made more challenging so that it takes some time and experience to master it, so that we experience drivers performing enthralling feats, not tasks that anyone can do with little experience. That should start to come with more responsibility in the drivers hands and less from engineers, on better tires, in cars able to race closely, with teams closer to each other, with more cars on the grid, as Liberty would like to see in the future.

        1. @robbie
          F1 is as difficult as it ever was. These cars are the fastest cars ever run on many of the same tracks. They definitely require alot more input than back in the old days. I can’t imagine having to know and constantly adjust about 30+ knob, levers, and buttons all while driving these machines at 10/10ths. This complex work plays to the strengths of youth with their hyper reflexes and fearless nature. I think it’s great to see the younger guys get a shot at the front running teams. It will surely put the older guard back on their toes. If not, it will usher in a new wave of super talented drivers that will only help spice up the show. Just my 2c. :)

          1. @twiinzspeed Actually no the drivers in recent years have been clamouring for more challenge, and right now they are too limited in dirty air and too limited by the finicky tires to really push themselves and the cars like they could with some tweaking to the regs. And that tweaking is upon us for 2021. They are too often told by engineers in the pits or the satellite rooms what pace they have to run in order to meet an ideal model based on their strategy on whatever tires. Drs diminishes F1 as well. F1 can do way better at ensuring we are watching the drivers perform great feats, which I believe is not the case now.

    12. To be fast is not good enough to win the title. Because of the poor performance of the pirelli tyres, management of those tyres is crucial. Let us wait and see what these youngsters can do in a really fast car, which can destroy tyres in one or two laps.

      1. Um, if anything tyremanagement seems to be what the topteams do best.

      2. I think driving a Sauber to the limit while managing tyres is a bigger task than managing tyres on a Ferrari.

        1. @todfod

          I think so to, driving around a non perfect setup isnt the best way of keeping tyres alive, and Leclerc had some issues during the season to kepe the tyres alive at some occasions, where marcus did a better job at tyre managing. Maybe that will become less of an issue and he can push a bit harder in a better setup car. And the knowledge of the tyres is probably much better at ferrari.

          Ive heard from sources inside a team that the tyres really are nasty to work with. Its not only what temperature you run, but also at which rate you get there, that will affect the performance for that tyre. Lots of weird things that the biggest teams most likely know better.

          1. a Sauber to the limit can’t possibly be compared to driving a Ferrari to the limit.

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