Charles Leclerc, Sauber, Singapore, 2018

Leclerc: Hamilton proved newcomers can perform in top teams

2019 F1 season

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New Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc says Lewis Hamilton’s rookie season sets the standard by which he expects to be judged.

After being announced as Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement for the 2019 F1 season during his first full year in the sport, Leclerc said Hamilton’s example shows inexperienced drivers can perform immediately in top cars.

“I think this is a big question mark for a lot of people, whether I’m ready or not,” he said. “Whether I’m ready or not I can’t tell. But I think that if you see obviously he arrived the first year and straight away was there.

“I believe that if you are good enough for one seat – experience is always a plus, obviously – but if you are good enough for one seat you are good enough from the first year you arrive in Formula 1.”

Leclerc is under no illusions about the potential consequences if he isn’t up to scratch when he joins Sebastian Vettel at the team.

“If next year I don’t have the results good enough to stay in Ferrari then it will be normal if I downgrade,” he said. “But then I don’t deserve a Ferrari seat. This is how I see things.”

Ferrari has rarely given its seats to drivers as inexperienced as Leclerc. However he isn’t concerned about the pressures that will come with his appointment to one of F1’s most coveted drives.

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“Obviously I can see that a lot of people think that I will have a lot more pressure on my shoulders. But I really don’t.

“I think I have a mentality that is really taking off all the pressure. I focus on myself and don’t really think about what people expect from me in the car.

Charles Leclerc, F2, Prema, Monza, 2017
F2 to F1 is a “big step” – Leclerc
“I believe that if I do the right job in the car and if I work in the right way the performances will be there. This is how I see the thing. I just focus fully on myself and the job I have to do in the car and then I think the results will come. To be honest, I don’t really feel the pressure.”

Leclerc arrived in F1 at the beginning of the season having won back-to-back championships in GP3 and Formula Two. He experienced some difficulties adjusting to Formula 1 at first, but expects the move from Sauber to Ferrari will be “less of a jump” in terms of how challenging it is.

“From Formula Two to Formula 1 it’s such a big step, honestly. With all the procedures, all the weekend organisation.

“Obviously there will be a lot of media attention as you can see now with the red team. But at the end the programme is the same and there are a lot of procedures in the car but very similar to here. All this I got used to.

“I think the big part of the job is going from Formula Two to Formula 1. Then obviously there’s always a time of adaptation to go from one car to another.”

However Leclerc understands he “needs to deliver” next year. “I’m not going to Ferrari to learn,” he said.

“I think I’ve had a very good season this year where I could learn the most of it and next year is to perform where should be once you are going in a big team.

“I’m not saying I won’t learn everything anymore because I have so much to learn still and I can still improve a lot in a lot of things. But definitely I will be a lot more ready than I was at the beginning of the year.”

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36 comments on “Leclerc: Hamilton proved newcomers can perform in top teams”

  1. He’s certainly saying all the right things.
    It’s great to see some young talent coming through. The likes of Leclerc, Verstappen and Ocon (hopefully…) fighting it out for the next 5-10 years is exciting!

  2. I’m excited for him. He’s definitely got the skill to race for a top tier team even though many people think it’s a little premature. As mentioned, if Lewis could do it in his rookie season, there’s no reason why he couldn’t.

    Hope he has a smooth start to next year.. That will be crucial in the quality of treatment he will receive at Ferrari. If he starts strong then they’ll give him a genuine shot at the title. If he starts poorly, he’ll be playing second fiddle to Vettel all season.

    1. I totally agree @todfod He seems mature enough to appreciate what he is stepping into and self-aware enough to understand his abilities. I wish him the best of luck for his career at Ferrari.

    2. There is a difference between him and Hamilton, there isn’t as much testing. With that said, with a season under his belt already I hope he can challenge Shebachem

      1. And you can tell from the way he speaks that he has not problem whatsoever with the concept that he could beat Vettel in 2009. Fantastic!!

        @johnmilk @nickwyatt @todfod

      2. @johnmilk – Yes. And a full season of F1 is worth more than 10,000 miles of testing in a simulator

      3. Are you for real dude, comparing full season on Formula 1 to testing?

  3. I can’t wait till he blows SV out the water. Or cause it will never be Seb it will always be the car. Let’s see how Seb likes been no 2. I for one can’t wait

    1. I’m with you. 100%, this.

    2. Vettel with 4 WDCs and third most wins is not going to be No. 2 to anybody.

  4. He’s right, LH beat the most competent driver on the grid at the time, in the same car… as a ROOKIE!

    It still makes me laugh when people site Alonso as the best driver of his generation knowing this fact, (although I think this view is diminishing).

    Come on Leclerc!

    1. To be honest a rookie in 2007 and in 2018 are quite different. They were allowed to do miles and miles of testing then, and with current machinery. Also, the politics inside McLaren were a mess with the Spygate and all.

      That being said, Lewis’ debut season was unforgettable and I certainly rate him above Alonso.

      1. Except he’s not a rookie.

    2. Alonso is the most complete driver. With immense mental capacity. And I think he has even become faster, unfortunately he went back to Mclaren after they stink themselves into a hole

      1. He really isn’t. I’ve heard this statement being thrown around for years about Alonso, but he’s difficult to manage and his one-lap pace is not the best (Vettel, Hamilton and Rosberg– yes, Rosberg– have demonstrated the ability to pull every tenth out of the car during qualifying).

        His starts are good (according to Ferrari internal data, Massa was better), his race pace is fantastic, and like Hamilton, he is relentless in passing. He’s definitely top 5, probably top 3 for this generation of drivers, but I think Hamilton has just been getting better and better since 2012.

      2. Jean-Christophe
        26th September 2018, 9:34

        Mental capacity? He goes ballistic when he can’t pass his teammate. I remember a race in Canada I think where he was demanding that his teammate let him pass but ended up crashing out of frustration. Or the race in the US where he couldn’t pass Lewis.

    3. Alonso is the best of his generation no doubt, between him, Massa, Button and Kovaleinen I pick him any day

  5. Is that a rebuttal to Strolls last comment on learning curve ?

    1. I don’t think so @tango. But maybe an aswer to the question which of them is ready for F1 (and which one would have been better served with another few years in F2)

  6. I can smell the end of Vettel’ career… I give it two years.

    1. Who knows, @david-beau. Maybe Seb will do a Nico and announce his retirement at the end of this year. He really has nothing more to gain by staying!

  7. And so did Verstappen, and that’s perhaps a more fair comparison as Hamilton had the advantage of being able to prepare himself for his F1 race debut by testing effectively as much as he wished since testing outside the GP weekends was entirely unrestricted at the time.

    1. @jerejj Lol. Both Verstappen and LeClerc did at least a full season unlike Hamilton who only did some testing.

      1. @noname Difference is, Hamilton did all of his testing for the team he was going to drive for, and the car he was going to drive in. Both Verstappen and Leclerc did a full season but in a different car. It’s no coincidence that Verstappen in 2017 was much quicker than Verstappen in 2016. This is a trend we are generally seeing, which is that drivers in their second seasons at a certain team improve drastically from their first year. Ocon, Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Ericsson, Alonso, Perez, Raikkonen have all done better in recent times in their second year after joining a new team. Whereas in the days of unlimited testing, most drivers were already comfortable with their cars at the start of the first season. We saw drivers like Kubica picking up a podium in his third ever race in F1, Alonso and Raikkonen were already competitive in their first years with Renault and McLaren respectively etc. I’m not saying that Hamilton didn’t do a great job in 2007, just that the situation isn’t quite as simple as “Leclerc had one year more of experience in F1 than Hamilton”.

        1. (@mashiat) And some drivers miss out on the championship by 1 year in their rookie season and win it in their second year (J.Villeneuve and Hamilton both won it in their second season, coming second as a rookie in 1996 and 2007 respectively).

      2. Some testing? Hamilton did more then a season worht of milage before he entered F1. Not saying that he didn’t have a stellar season tho.

      3. @noname Apparently, you didn’t get my point, LOL.

    2. Leclerc / Vettel is the same as Hamilton / Alonso in the fact that Leclerc, who is tipped as a future WDC is entering into a new team and will be up against an experienced multiple WDC.

  8. I think it will be interesting to see how Leclerc does. I can’t go along with much of the rhetoric that is being said above though. I did get a kick out of Leclerc saying he is not there to learn, followed up by him saying he still has a lot to learn. And I think he is revealing some naïveté when he says he doesn’t feel pressure. The thing is, CL hasn’t been in this situation before and so even he doesn’t yet know what pressures he will feel. What I would say is that next year will be his last relatively low pressure season in that if he is bested by SV it is no surprise, but if he does well it is a bonus.

    I think there is as much anti-SV venom that is behind this support for Leclerc as there is actual genuine support for Leclerc. And it’s funny to me how some support Ferrari with their one-rooster approach, and some admonish them for allegedly hanging Kimi out to dry from race one of seasons, and yet Leclerc is just going to swoop in and start dominating SV and taking over the number one spot. Does that really sound like reality to you guys? You actually think they have hired CL for SV to support? I’m surprised that those who back CL would heap that kind of pressure on him.

    What I think is something closer to reality next year for Leclerc is that he is there to learn, he is there to support SV, and he is their long term plan. They will decide how much rein to give CL, CL himself won’t be the decider on that. That he might swoop in and dominate (be allowed to dominate) would be quite something to see, and would be quite the sea change at Ferrari. What are the odds of that? If F1 is hard, isn’t it more reasonable to expect CL will at a minimum be on his hind foot on a new team, against a 4 time WDC, such that by the time he gets up to speed next year SV will have already solidified a points advantage? And you do realize that part of this equation, if CL is supposed to swoop in and dominate at Ferrari and make the team his, is that he will also have to beat LH while he’s doing all these wonderful things to turn Ferrari around. But no pressure, right? If he’s not beating LH as well as SV in this dream season he’s about to have, then I suppose the number one spot will be open again for 2020, no? But then the pressure would really be on, as much as CL would like to deny that from where he sits now.

    1. @robbie

      While you do make a few fair points, it should be kept in mind why Ferrari are making a change to their driver line up to begin with. It’s not that Kimi wasn’t good enough to play rear gunner this season. I actually think he was a solid #2 driver this year. The problem for Ferrari this season has been their #1 driver. If they are a one ‘rooster’ team, then they need a rooster that can get the job done.

      In CL, they’re hoping to find the next Ferrari rooster. So, it’s a delicate balance between allowing him to race Vettel and asking him to play rear gunner. If he’s quicker than Vettel from the start, then I don’t expect either driver to play rear gunner in 2019. We could potentially witness the next Alonso-Hamilton-esque season in 2019. If CL takes time to find his footing, then I agree that he’d play rear gunner for a season. Either ways, I don’t think Ferrari will be able to treat CL in the same manner they treated Kimi. At this point in time, CL is a much more valuable asset to Ferrari than Vettel is, and that will definitely come in to play when they’re managing their drivers next season.

      If F1 is hard, isn’t it more reasonable to expect CL will at a minimum be on his hind foot on a new team, against a 4 time WDC, such that by the time he gets up to speed next year SV will have already solidified a points advantage?

      Tell this to Ricciardo ;)

      Honestly, anything is possible in F1. It’s not impossible for CL to beat him, but the odds, and the safe money, are still in Vettel’s favour.

      1. @todfod That’s fair enough. I would say that CL will only be considered a more valuable asset than SV if he shows them he can translate the hype into results once he is playing with the big boys. So we truly have to wait and see.

        Also, and I know there was a wink there within your ‘tell this to Ricciardo’…but of course next season SV will not be finding himself in a car that is completely unrecognizable to what he has become accustomed…completely incapable of winning a WDC or WCC…like happened in 2014. This is the same DR that then lost to Kvyat in 2015. CL is coming to Ferrari while SV is their main man, and while he is quite comfortable with the car, and could quite possibly have an even better car next year.

        1. Those 3 comments sum it up quite nicely actually…
          CL is naive thinking there will be pressure but he will handle all of it.. :) It just shows how young he is, not for driving the car, but for handling the pressure of Ferrari… Ferrari is maybe trying to be a team like everyone else (by getting a young promising guy) … But Ferrari has a “problem”.. Fans that are not like any other team in the grid… The only way to describe the passion of Ferrari fans is by comparing them to great Italian football club fans. Which is really great! and even envious in some respect! But comes with a drawback… There is the press that feeds those fans and that adds extra pressure through them to the team. If something goes wrong for a small period of time heads are taken and people are axed… :) So CL is going to a team and an environment which he has never experienced before. Maybe he will receive a different treatment now that Ferrari has finally decided to pick a young driver for one of their seats. Maybe he will even get some slack for one or two years… But the pressure will be unlike any other he has ever experienced…
          He may be used to humiliating his teammate when it comes to qualifying but SV is no ME when it comes to it. But this is how he will put some pressure on SV from the very start… In the first 2 or 3 races of this season, he was not that great compared to his teammate. But after he got used to the car great performances came in qualifying. So I would guess that this trend will continue . And beating SV in qualifying or managing to be really close to him consistently will be crucial for him. Will add extra pressure to SV. Internal pressure is worst than external when it comes to managing it. And SV is prone to mistakes lately.
          Ferrari has already a good car. So has Mercedes. But Mercedes has LH that even on weekends that the car seems inferior he is able to put together stunning laps and eek out of it a bit more of its real potential. He did it in McLaren, he does it in Mercedes as well. Let’s hope that Ferrari having the data from Sauber, saw in him that exactly. And decided to sign him for that reason. His driving maturity speaks for itself and is there for all to see. But let’s hope this is a calculated move and they know more than what everyone else sees. This will only add to the excitement of this season for the next one!! Providing both cars are almost equal next year as well!

  9. I think we really need to wait and see how this will develop. I am really excited by this move from Ferrari, and I think he has a lot of talent, he certainly can be fast. But if he has hopes to be a number 1 driver one day, he needs to be at the top of his game mentally, and I don’t know yet if he will be able to cope with. The pressure will be really incredible. And when he started this season, I felt that all the pressure from the hype he had before the season debut showed a bit on his first races, where he even admitted that he was over driving his car, and was not performing the way he hoped for. This is something he cannot let happen next year, he must be on top of his game since practice 1 at Melbourne, or else he will need to play second role game at Ferrari. Let’s hope he does, and the season will be a blast! He has the potential to become one of the greats, but he needs to be mentally prepared for the challenge at the shark pool of Ferrari. I cannot wait for next season.

  10. Leclerc either showing his age, or just a surprising lack of knowledge. Lewis’ debut over a decade ago was very different to any of the “new kids on the block” of the past few years.

    He had EXTENSIVE experience in single seater racing well before his first race weekend, including thousands of hours on a simulator and in a regulation-relavant car on a test track. Combined with an enormous amount of natural talent, and the drive to use it, he was always going to succeed from the start.

  11. Charles has Ayrton qualities – he knows what he is in for next year with a fast 4 x WDC, he isn’t stupid but is confident he can go well, this will be a great hit out IF Ferrari keep team orders and questionable pitstops alone!!

  12. My monies on Vettel for the first 2 seasons.
    LC has the right attitude and has shown potential.
    However SV is a proven elite F1 driver and arguably in the top 3 drivers of his generation.
    I hope to be proved wrong but the odds are that LC will fall short here.

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