Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto is fully behind his star driver Sebastian Vettel ahead of the first day of preseason testing for the 2019 Formula 1 season which begins in Barcelona on Monday.
The newly instated team principal insists that the onus is on the Scuderia to provide Vettel with a race winning car so he can fight for the championship.
Speaking after the launch of the Ferrari SF90 at a lavish function at Maranello, Binotto said, “Sebastian is a very experienced driver, he won championships, he knows what is necessary to win, so it’s my task to put him in the proper conditions to do the job.”
“I’m expecting a lot from him, no doubt, as he is from himself,” added the technical chief turned team boss.
Tifosi could argue that the SF90’s predecessor – the SF70H – was a title-winning car but Vettel’s mistakes cost him the world title or at least ended his challenge far sooner than anyone wanted except, of course, his nemesis Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes team.
Charles Leclerc brings with him a dash of youth, a policy the team has seldom employed for drivers to race in their hallowed cars. But the Reds have groomed young Leclerc from his early days and it was as if he was ordained to drive for the team.
Binotto said of the 21-year-old Monegasque, “Charles for us is a very young driver, I can’t remember in the recent past of Ferrari having such a young driver in our line-up. There will be much to learn for him at the start, he’s got a good reference. I think Sebastian will be a good reference for him.”
Gone is veteran 2007 F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen who Vettel had the measure of both in and out of the car, but now the German may have to dig deeper than ever before as the first challenge will come from the young chap within his own garage.
However, Binotto a racing man knows that there may come a point, in the year ahead, when Leclerc may have to play second-fiddle, “I think it’s normal, especially early in the season, that if there are particular situations our priority will be Sebastian.”
“He is the guide with which we aim for the championship. But there’s no prejudice – the absolute priority is for Ferrari to win.”
“To have a driver pairing so competitive I think it’s not a problem but an opportunity. Sebastian has little to prove, and he remains our guide. Charles still has to learn, as pointed out by himself, but we know how talented he is.”
“I hope to have this problem of having two drivers to manage among the top positions,” added Binotto as his team seek another Formula 1 title, that has eluded them for over a decade, to add to the 31 they already have.