Vettel versus Leclerc: Let the games begin at Ferrari

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As Ferrari hail in a new era of youth with highly-rated Charles Leclerc becoming the youngest driver in a red cockpit for the first time since Ricardo Rodriguez raced for the team in 1961, a move that will could make or break their star driver Sebastian Vettel.

By his own admission Vettel accepted that at times he failed the team by not bringing his A-game when it mattered this season and, as a result, a very good chance of dethroning the might of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton went begging.

Now, after the Pirelli test in Abu Dhabi, with Leclerc ending the final day faster than all, including teammate Vettel who was three tenths slower a day earlier in the same car.

Needless to say, lap times are irrelevant at such tests, but inevitably this did trigger the first of what will be many chapters in the Vettel versus Leclerc tale that has started to unfold.

Luigi Perna, F1 correspondent for La Gazzetta dello Sport, gave a prelude to the Vettel-Leclerc ‘box-set’ in a discussion with Formula Passion.

They asked him: Will the arrival of Leclerc to partner Seb at Ferrari in 2019, instead of Kimi Raikkonen, further destabilise the German?

Perna replied, “I look at it from a positive perspective. The arrival of Leclerc can be an extra stimulus for Vettel, helping to raise the performance bar for both. This is not to say that Raikkonen was not fast enough compared to Seb and that Charles will be.”

“It is more a question of hunger, motivation and even ambition. Leclerc is young, he wants to make his name immediately and to show all his worth, as it should be for a talented young driver who aspires to become world champion.”

“It is not a question of arrogance, as the Monegasque driver explained, but that of determination and belief in his own abilities. A character trait that unites the best.”

“The chance to drive for Ferrari, the team with the most prestigious history in F1, alongside a four times world champion, this is a big jump for Leclerc.”

“At the same time, I think Vettel will bring out the best of himself to remain the number one in the team and avoid the risk of being overshadowed by the new kid. He has the pride and talent to do it.”

“Together they could provide the much needed added value for Ferrari next season because they potentially represent one of the strongest driver partnerships in the world, provided that  are managed intelligently.”

“They must avoid internal battles and bumping on track as happened with Hamilton and Alonso at McLaren [in 2007] or more recently between Verstappen and Ricciardo at Red Bull. Both should be primed to win races for the team and aim to win both drivers’ and constructors’ titles.”

“Harnessing Leclerc’s talent and preventing him from going for wins, putting him in the background so as not to disturb Seb would be a very serious mistake.”

“On that note, I was struck by what Maurizio Arrivabane said, which is, that Leclerc will gain experience best by learning from Vettel. I hope it’s a way to protect him, and not to load him with too much pressure. Whatever the case when you drive for Ferrari the pressure comes by itself.”

Perna concluded, “It is no secret that Vettel would have preferred to continue with Kimi, a teammate of whom he is a friend and who has never created problems, that for him would have been the most comfortable thing.”

“But as President Sergio Marchionne had rightly surmised, a shock was needed and perhaps it will be healthy for Seb.”

It would be fair to say that Vettel and Raikkonen had good a relationship during their partnership in red, but it was also clear that the German was number one in the team and the Finn often playing second fiddle until, of course, he learned at Monza his services were no longer required.

And notably, the #5 Ferrari never won a race after that!

Big Question: Seb vs Charles how will it go for Ferrari?