Leclerc: 2019 title the goal if Ferrari maintains level
Ferrari's new signing Charles Leclerc says he will target the Formula 1 drivers' title in 2019 if the Scuderia maintains its current level of performance.
Leclerc has been drafted in as Kimi Raikkonen's replacement for next year on the heels of a stellar rookie season with Sauber, and will become the second-youngest Ferrari F1 driver in history.
The Monegasque says that Ferrari's current SF71H challenger is a title-calibre car, and insists he will want to fight for the drivers' championship in his first year with the Scuderia if its 2019 car is as competitive.
“It is difficult to speak now, but my target is to do the job best possible with the car we'll have,” he said.
“This year they have, I think, a winning car, to win the title, and if next year is the same, it [the goal] will be then to win the title, which is definitely a big thing.
“I will have to improve a lot as a driver, and yeah, it [the goal] will be to take the best result possible.”
Asked whether he could take the fight to four-time world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel the way reigning champion Lewis Hamilton did with Fernando Alonso at McLaren in his rookie season back in 2007, Leclerc said: “I think this is a big question mark for a lot of people, whether I'm ready or not.
“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 [at the top].
“And I believe that if you are good enough - experience is always a plus obviously, but if you are good enough on one seat, you are good enough [for a top seat] from the first year you arrive in Formula 1.
“And if next year I don't have the results good enough to stay in Ferrari, then it would be normal that I downgrade, but then I don't deserve a Ferrari seat. This is how I see things.”
Leclerc said he did not expect to be afforded the luxury of a learning year at Ferrari.
“Definitely I need to deliver. 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, the way it should be once you are going in a big team.
“Not saying I won't learn anything anymore - because I have so much to learn still, and I can still improve a lot in a lot of things, but yeah, definitely I will be a lot more ready than I was in the beginning of the year.”
Additional reporting by Adam Cooper
Charles Leclerc, Sauber, Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari and Beat Zehnder, Sauber Manager
Photo by: Manuel Goria / Sutton Images
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