Charles Leclerc is more than capable of beating the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the top of the Drivers’ Championship standings in the near future, according to Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto. Leclerc has endured a turbulent couple of years with the historic Italian team, who have experienced a dramatic fall from grace in recent seasons.
The 24-year-old, who has been on the podium just once since the beginning of the campaign, joined Ferrari back in 2019 following the departure of Kimi Raikkonen to Alfa Romeo.
He was awarded the coveted seat after a hugely impressive debut season on the grid and made a splash in his first year with his new team.
Leclerc won back-to-back races in Belgium and Italy, ending Ferrari’s nine-year wait for victory at their home Grand Prix in the process.
However, Ferrari’s significant drop in pace at the start of last season has seen the Monegasque driver fail to trouble the likes of Hamilton and Verstappen in the months since.
He came close to victory at the British Grand Prix back in July but was ultimately caught by Hamilton with just a few laps remaining at Silverstone.
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Leclerc currently lies sixth in the Drivers’ Championship standings and has been adrift of this year’s battle for glory for some time.
However, Binotto is convinced that Leclerc’s time will eventually come, insisting that he bears all the hallmarks of a future world champion.
“We have invested in him for the long term because we are fully convinced he will be the man to become the next world champion [for Ferrari],” Binotto told GP Racing Magazine as relayed by Planet F1.
“First of all, we have known him from the beginning of his career. We are talking about a very talented driver and this is the priority.
“He is very fast and not only on the single lap. When he is in the race, his ability to defend and attack without losing pace is something exceptional.
“I always have in mind Monza in 2019 and his defence against Hamilton, or against Max at Silverstone.
“Charles is very good at managing pressure, he is capable of winning thanks to his winning mentality required when you are in the lead, managing the situation. He has a fantastic talent.”
Binotto went on to explain how Leclerc has developed his ability to manage the finer details, claiming that he will soon be good enough to emulate the likes of Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso at Ferrari.
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“The way he handles the tyres now is incredibly different than when he started,” added Binotto.
“He has significantly developed his sensitivity in the car and on the tyres. This distinguishes the talented from the good drivers.
“If you are talented, you are capable of getting everything out of the car, putting together a fantastic lap. That was the case with Michael and Fernando.”
It remains to be seen whether Leclerc will be able to get on the podium once again between now and the end of the season, with just two races left to finish his year on a high.
Ferrari will be counting on both of their drivers to bring the fight to McLaren in their battle to rubber-stamp third place in the Constructors’ Championship standings.