Last year’s GP3 Series champion and this year’s Formula 2 champion Charles Leclerc is Scuderia Ferrari’s best option for the 2019 Formula One season.
Charles Leclerc, 20, is getting to be the best in the business when it comes to drivers not currently driving in Formula One with aspirations of doing so. The Monégasque driver is currently a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, and he won the 2016 GP3 Series championship comfortably before winning this year’s Formula 2 title in dominant fashion.
Before getting into the 2019 season for Leclerc, perhaps we should focus on his destination for the 2018 season. During the 2016 Formula One season, Leclerc was a test driver for Scuderia Ferrari and Haas. This past season, he test drove for Ferrari and Sauber, and the 20-year-old is set to drive for Sauber in 2018. The team signed a technical partnership with Ferrari for that season.
As far as the 2019 season goes, it could not be more clear that Leclerc would be the best option for Scuderia Ferrari to sign as a teammate to four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel. In fact, he has admitted to eyeing a seat with the team already. Vettel’s contract extension with Ferrari does not run out until the end of the 2020 season, so he would not be the driver that Leclerc would replace.
However, 2007 Formula One champion Kimi Raikkonen, who hasn’t won a Formula One race in the better part of five full seasons, signed a third straight one-year deal with Ferrari this summer to remain with the team in the 2018 season.
While being a team player is important to the Maranello-based team, which Raikkonen has been, 2018 will likely be the 38-year-old’s final drive for the team, as Vettel has never been able to win a championship even with Raikkonen being a great team player. Plus, there plenty of young “drivers of the future” out such as Leclerc that could become future Formula One champions, so Ferrari cannot afford to pass up the opportunity to sign him.
There was initially speculation that Max Verstappen’s would have been available for Mercedes or Ferrari to sign following the conclusion of the 2018 Formula One season because it was believed that despite his original contract had an opt-out clause despite the fact that it was set to expire at the end of the 2019 season.
However, with Verstappen having just signed an extension to remain with Red Bull Racing through the 2020 season, neither Mercedes nor Ferrari will be able to sign the 20-year-old Dutchman who may people believe will win multiple Formula One championships. This opens the door even wider for Leclerc to land with Ferrari in the 2019 season.
Will Charles Leclerc end up with Scuderia Ferrari in the 2019 season as he should, or will there be an unforeseen circumstance or circumstances that arrive and prevent this from happening? While we know that Leclerc is headed to Sauber next season, it may take the better part of a year before we know for sure if he will be headed to Ferrari in 2019.