Formula 1 sporting chief Ross Brawn believes Charles Leclerc’s arrival at Ferrari will provide the team with a boost and give teammate Sebastian Vettel “added incentive” in 2019.
Leclerc will graduate to Ferrari next season to partner four-time world champion Vettel following an impressive rookie campaign with a revitalised Sauber squad.
The 21-year-old Monegasque turned in a number of strong displays on his way to scoring 39 of Sauber’s 48-point total in 2018, helping the Swiss outfit improve to eighth place in the constructors’ championship.
Leclerc made his first official outing as a Ferrari driver on Wednesday as he took over from Vettel and instantly beat his new teammate’s benchmark time by four-tenths of a second to end the post-season Abu Dhabitest on top.
“Charles Leclerc has been truly impressive in terms of speed and talent but now he has to make a significant step up,” Brawn said.
“I’m sure his arrival at Ferrari will be a boost for the team and an added incentive for Vettel next year.”
While a number of high-profile errors and missed opportunities ultimately thwarted Ferrari’s 2018 campaign as it lost out on both world championships to Mercedes, Brawn, a key architect in the team’s dominance of the early 2000s, reckons the Scuderia benefitted from a change of approach this year.
“When one doesn’t win a world championship that had seemed very winnable, it’s inevitable that questions are asked in order to understand what went wrong,” he explained.
“When the team in question is Ferrari, then the question is not just asked at the top but it becomes almost a national question in Italy, as I was able to see for myself during my decade in Maranello.
“Ferrari is condemned for finishing second in both championships, as it’s simply not good enough at home. And yet, there can be cause for satisfaction in Maranello, because over two years the team has managed to close a performance gap to Mercedes that in 2016 amounted to a second a lap.
“The shake up of the technical management instigated by Sergio Marchionne bore fruit this year,” Brawn added. “I think most importantly it resulted in a new approach to the way the team operated and that gave the team a new spirit.
“It’s been a decade since Ferrari has been capable of winning six grands prix and of starting from pole six times.
“Sebastian Vettel was a worthy opponent for Lewis Hamilton but unlike the Englishman the German failed to win all of the races he should have, nor could he win when he wasn’t favourite to do so.”