A new era for Ferrari kicked on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi as 21-year-old Charles Leclerc lowered himself into the SF71H and drove out of the pits – he was now officially a Ferrari Formula 1 driver.
Indeed the Monaco Kid has been on the Maranello payroll for some time now, but today it was official – he was a Ferrari driver – payback for all the hard work from his side and faith that the sport’s most iconic team have in him.
He is the second youngest driver in the history of the team which traditionally have chosen experienced drivers, with winning pedigree to race for them.
Not so anymore as Leclerc ousted their much loved (and last world champion) Kimi Raikkonen and will be Sebastian Vettel’s teammate in 2019, setting an intriguing dynamic within the team: youth versus experience.
Charles: I can’t wait for next season to start
On Tuesday, Vettel topped the timing sheets after the first day of Pirelli tyre testing, fast forward 24 hours and the team’s new youngster went one better, fastest on day two and quicker than Vettel was the previous day.
Leclerc said after his first official day with the Reds, “Of course it was emotional, because driving a Ferrari is special and because this was a day I had been waiting for, for so long without being sure if it would happen.”
“I am pleased about that and with the work we did. Our entire programme was based on comparison testing between this and next year’s tyres. For me, it was important because I also got to know the team better, although some were no strangers to me, given my time with the Ferrari Driver Academy.”
“Over the next few weeks, I will work to be in the best possible shape and to learn from everyone in the team and my team-mate. I can’t wait for next season to start…” added the young man who will become the 109th Ferrari driver when he lines up on the Melbourne grid next year for the 2019 F1 season opener.