Carlos Sainz moves to the Scuderia from McLaren next season as replacement for Sebastian Vettel, that transfer having been finalised before the current campaign got under way.
Ferrari have decided to go with two relative young guns although it’s Leclerc, who is three years Sainz’s junior, that will be the main hope in trying to get the Italian giants back up the order after a dreadfully poor 2020 so far.
But with Formula 1 being a team game, in which both drivers need to contribute to the collective effort, Coulthard believes Sainz will need to be pulling his weight after the summer break of next season at the latest if he is to fulfil the two-year contract he has signed.
“The reality is they are both fairly mild-mannered and very polite young men, so I think they will understand their roles within the team which is to develop the car the best they can,” Coulthard told Channel 4 of Leclerc and Sainz – “The real battle and competition between them is the stopwatch and it’s there that they will show who the team leader is. I’ve got to say Charles will have the upper hand initially because he understands the makings of the team and how it all works. Let’s say we give Carlos half a season, but if he’s not able to then start matching Charles or outperforming him it could be a short time for him at Ferrari.”
From Leclerc’s perspective, Sainz is sure to bring different strengths to Ferrari than Vettel in the sense of being younger than the German and eager to make an impact to repay the faith the team have shown in selecting him ahead of other potential candidates.
The Monegasque is enthused by the prospect but also paid tribute to Vettel, even though the duo have had their moments on track during their time together as team-mates.
Leclerc told Channel 4: “Seb is a great person and as a driver he is amazing.
“But the team have made their decision and I will have Carlos [Sainz] next to me. I’m also very excited to have him by my side because every time you are changing team-mates it is always interesting to see how this new team-mate works.
“You always learn from your team-mate, so it’s an exciting challenge, but Seb is an amazing person and a driver who I have learned so much from. I wish him the best.”