Ferrari have announced Sauber driver Charles Leclerc will join the team next season replacing the Sauber-bound Kimi Raikkonen.
2017 Formula 2 champion Leclerc has turned heads in his debut season in Formula 1, with a string of impressive performances for the improving Sauber team. Having been forced to adapt his driving style following some early-season struggles, Leclerc’s now made it into Q3 in qualifying on three separate occasions, while in the races, he’s been even better, scoring points five times in 2018 – with a best finish of sixth in Azerbaijan.
Leclerc’s strong showings have drawn praise from no less than four-time world champions Sebastian Vettel – his future Ferrari team mate – and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. “The races he’s had so far, he has used his opportunities, scored points with a car that doesn’t belong in the points,” said Vettel. “So he is doing everything he can.”
Hamilton, meanwhile, said that Leclerc “really has the potential to do great things [in Formula 1] – and you can’t say that about every kid who has come through in the past years.”
Leclerc will become one of the youngest ever drivers to race for Ferrari, and the first Monegasque driver to do so. He also becomes the first Ferrari Driver Academy graduate to be promoted to the senior Ferrari team since the scheme was launched in 2009 – with his great friend Jules Bianchi having been linked to a seat with the team prior to his tragic death in 2015.
“Dreams do come true,” Leclerc posted on Twitter. “I’ll be driving for Ferrari for the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship. I will be eternally grateful to Ferrari for the opportunity given.”
The 20-year-old’s appointment marks a radical departure from Ferrari’s traditional reluctance to field a young and inexperienced driver.
But Leclerc has been hugely impressive this term and it’s understood that, prior to his death this summer, Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne had resolved to promote the rookie at Raikkonen’s expense.