Singapore – Ferrari’s new young gun Charles Leclerc admitted on Thursday he has to deliver straight away for Ferrari in 2019 after securing a dream move this week.
On Tuesday, Ferrari announced Leclerc would be moving from Sauber where he will be replaced by Kimi Raikkonen, who is going in the opposite direction for the 2019 season.
“I have had a very good season this year… and next year I have to perform in a big team,” Leclerc told reporters ahead of this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.
“I still have to learn a lot of things but I will be a lot more ready than this year.”
The super-confident Leclerc thinks he might be able to challenge Ferrari No 1 Sebastian Vettel for team supremacy in a similar manner to Lewis Hamilton at McLaren in 2007.
Hamilton’s debut season saw him finish ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso only to lose out on the world title by one point, coincidentally to Raikkonen in a Ferrari.
“Whether I’m ready or not, I can’t tell. But I think that if you see Lewis, he arrived the first year and straight away was there,” said Leclerc.
Vettel backed the 20-year-old from Monaco to succeed despite his tender years.
“If you’re fast enough, you’re old enough,” said the German four-time world champion.
Leclerc admitted many had doubts over whether he was ready to step up.
“And if next year I don’t have the results good enough to stay in Ferrari… then I don’t deserve a Ferrari seat. This is how I see things,” he said.
“I think I have a mentality which really takes off all the pressure. I really focus on myself and don’t really think about what people expect from me in the car.”
Meanwhile Finland’s Raikkonen, currently third in the driver’s championship, said he found out only at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza two weeks ago that he would be moving from the Marinello team.
But the last driver to win the world championship for Ferrari added he was delighted to be able to return to Sauber where he started his Formula One career in 2001.
“I don’t really care what others think,” said Raikkonen, hitting back at observers who had expected him to retire if he lost his prized seat at Ferrari.
“Why not (rejoin Sauber)? As long I’m happy with my own reasons, it’s enough for me.
“I always said that I will stop when I feel it’s right for me. I don’t need to comment how I feel. Obviously the racing is the part that I enjoy most and that’s why we are here.”