Charles Leclerc hopes he is competitive enough against Sebastian Vettel to give Ferrari a welcome “problem” in their pursuit of F1’s world titles this year.
Ferrari’s new boss, Mattia Binotto, suggested at the launch of the team’s new car “if there are particular situations our priority will be Sebastian”, the team’s established lead driver of the last four years.
“I think it’s normal, especially early in the season, he is the guide with which we aim for the championship,” said Binotto.
After starring in his rookie season at Sauber to earn a promotion to the team he says he has always dreamed of driving for, Leclerc says he is “realistic” about where he currently is in his career.
But he still hopes to quickly be in a position to challenge his new team-mate.
“Obviously I will be happy if I get used to this car as soon as possible and that I’m straight on the pace,” said Leclerc, who enjoyed a productive opening week of testing at Barcelona in the promising new Ferrari.
“But I’m realistic too, it’s only my second season in Formula 1 and I have a lot to learn.
“There’s a long road ahead, but I’m pushing to be as ready as possible for the first race and if Mattia has the problem to manage two quick drivers then it’s a good sign for me.”
Leclerc added: “But I want to focus on myself, trying to improve every time I’m going in the car. It’s a top team and they are quite different to the team I was in before so it’s a bit of an adaption.”
Leclerc eager to learn from Vettel
While naturally keen to beat each other on track over race weekends, both Vettel and Leclerc have insisted it is Ferrari’s wider interests which come first as the team look to end what is now an 11-year title drought.
Vettel has already said he is not expecting any personal problems with his new young team-mate and Leclerc confirms they are already “working very well together”.
“Seb is a very nice guy and it’s not difficult to get on with him, so that’s good.
“We are working on different things with the car and it’s good to have Seb next to me during these days [at testing]. It’s good to see what are his strong points and what I can learn from him.”
(c) Sky News 2019: Charles Leclerc hopes to give Ferrari ‘problem’ in Sebastian Vettel duel