If you were Ferrari – in which driver would you place your trust to take you into the future? Ferrari’s presupposed number one ace is four time Formula 1 World Champion Sébastien Vettel who holds many records including the greatest number of consecutive race wins with his prior stable Red Bull. He is contracted with Ferrari through 2020 – just one more season.
All the buzz, of course, is around Charles LeClerc who, prior to replacing Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari, had just one season in Formula 1 with Sauber. The young Monegasque has just won his spurs in his first season with Ferrari with two Grand Prix wins and ending the season fourth in the World Championship, 24 points clear of Vettel.
Ferrari have recently made a powerful statement and a huge bet on LeClerc by extending his contract from 2022 to at least 2024. That effectively means five more seasons with the Prancing Horse. Is it justified after Ferrari suffering such a difficult season in 2019 at the hands of Mercedes who walked away with double laurels winning the constructors’ Championship and the driver’s Championship with Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari could have pushed Mercedes much harder had not the tension between Vettel and LeClerc reached boiling point on several occasions. And 2019 seemed to be coloured at Ferrari by mishaps not only due to mis-communication between the two pilots but also by bungling of strategic calls by Ferrari.
The evidence suggests that Ferrari have now got it right in putting their faith in LeClerc. His two wins in 2019 in Belgium and at Ferrari’s home race in Monza, Italy could just as easily been five. Vettel’s retirement from the race in Russia caused a safety car that took the win from Leclerc there. And he had almost won from pole on his second start with the Maranello team, but was foiled by an engine problem in Bahrain.
2020 is shaping up to be a barn burner and not just because of the battle between Ferrari and Mercedes. And also not just because of the renewed excitement of Vettel and LeClerc jousting for pre-eminence at Ferrari. It may be that the other young gun Max Verstappen, who was third, and one place ahead of Charles in the 2019 World Championship, decides to give Charles a run for his money!