Massimo Rivola sees parallels between the promotion of Charles Leclerc to Ferrari for the forthcoming season, to when McLaren promoted Lewis Hamilton to Formula 1 in 2007, but the former Ferrari sporting director turned CEO of Aprilia, is confident that his former team will not make the same mistakes Ron Dennis made back then.
Rewinding to that drama-packed year, GP2 Series champion Hamilton stepped up for McLaren who had hired double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso to partner the Briton. What transpired is now etched into the history of the sport as the pair feuded all year long, a fact that ultimately lost them the F1 drivers’ title, stolen by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who took advantage of the ‘civil war’ at Woking.
For 2019, Leclerc steps up to the Scuderia to partner four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, but Rivola believes the Reds will manage their drivers in a less explosive manner than Dennis managed to do with Hamilton and Alonso a dozen years ago.
Asked about the similarities, Rivola told Autosprint, “It’s a very appropriate example, but I think Ferrari will handle the situation better than McLaren at the time.”
“Leclerc is precocious and strong, which is a double-edged sword because you cannot always beat the leader, we’ll have to see how he will react mentally if this is the case.”
“It’s clear that Hamilton is the benchmark driver, the champion Mercedes have to bet on. At Ferrari, with a car capable of winning, they will have a good driver who lost out in 2018 because of his own mistakes,” explained Rivola with reference to Vettel’s inconsistent and incident-plagued 2018 season,
He added, “If teammates are battling one another it can destabilise the team. So, much will depend on performances in the first few races of the season.”
Vettel is no stranger to an upstart wobbling his throne, in 2014 young gun (at the time) Daniel Ricciardo was promoted to Red Bull where Vettel was boss, having claimed four world successive F1 world titles for the team between 2010 and 2013.
But the Australian outshone the German and at the end of the season a humbled Vettel departed for Ferrari, now five years down the road he will have to contend with an eager and ambitious Leclerc, setting the stage for another intriguing sideshow for F1 fans as the new season fast approaches.
Big Question: Will Charles rattle Seb in 2019?