The 20-year-old will partner Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari next year after the team chose him over Kimi Raikkonen. New Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc says he expects to be a title contender in his first season at the team in 2019 if the car is good enough.
“My target is to do the best job with the car they have,” said Leclerc. “This year they have a car to win the title. If next year it is the same, obviously [the target] will be to win the title, which is a big thing.”
However, the Monegasque, who has impressed in his debut season with Sauber this year, admitted it would be “pretentious” to say he definitely can win races and titles in the future.
“This is definitely the target,” he said. “I don’t know whether I will achieve that or not but one thing for sure is I will give my absolute maximum.
“I have seen a lot of people who are doubting the decision, which is completely normal and I understand that but I will just try to prove these people wrong and do the best job possible.
“Experience is always a plus, but I believe if you are good enough for an F1 seat, you are good enough from the year you arrive in F1. “And if next year I don’t have the results good enough to stay in Ferrari, then it will be normal I downgrade. But then I don’t deserve a Ferrari seat and this is how I see the things.
“I will have to grow a lot and I need to deliver. I am not going to Ferrari to learn. I have had a very good season this year where I could learn the most of it. I have so much to learn still and I can still improve in a lot of things. But next season is to perform where you should be in a big team.”
Leclerc said he did not feel his promotion put him under pressure.
“A lot of people think I will have a lot of pressure on my shoulders, but I really don’t. I have a mentality that is really taking off all the pressure. I focus on myself and don’t think about what people expect of me in the car.
“If I do the right job in the car, the performances will be there. I just fully focus on myself and the job I do in the car and then I think the results will come. I don’t really feel the pressure.”
And he said he would be free to race with Vettel from the start of the season.
“It is more or less like this in every team,” Leclerc said. “You have two drivers who start the season on equal status and then at one point in the season, you see some team orders because one driver is in the running for the championship and the other is not. This is normal. But I believe they will let us race at the beginning of the season.”
Leclerc is effectively switching seats with Raikkonen, who negotiated a move to Sauber after being informed at the last race in Italy that he was surplus to requirements at Ferrari.
Asked why he had wanted to return to Sauber, a team in the midfield where he began his F1 career in 2001, Raikkonen said: “Why not?”
Pressed to give an explanation, he said: “Because I want to. Why do you try to make it so complicated? “Obviously I have my reasons and that’s enough for me. I don’t really care what others think and as long as I’m happy with my own reasons, it’s enough for me.”
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Source: BBC News