Charles Leclerc on Sebastian Vettel’s last race: “I will very much miss his presence”

Charles Leclerc has just one race remaining to fight Sergio Pérez for second in the Drivers’ Championship, a result which would be a personal best for the Monegasque driver. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is one where himself and Scuderia Ferrari will be aiming to end on a high, given the struggles they’ve faced this season.

When the curtain closes on his fifth season in Formula 1, Leclerc will likely ponder on the number of errors that have been made by the Scuderia this season. Reliability woes, strategic blunders, and driver errors have ultimately cost Leclerc either a World Championship or more victories.

All that is left to fight for is second best, something he would still prefer than third especially as it’d mean he’d split the Oracle Red Bull Racing squad.

Leclerc is aiming to “try” his best to claim second spot, with him literally just needing to beat Pérez to do so.

“Obviously, it won’t be easy, but we will certainly try. This season has had its ups and downs, but it must be seen in perspective. Compared to the past two years, we have made an incredible step forward and it would be nice to bring home both second places.”

Ahead of the weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit, Leclerc also reflected on his 2022 season and how it’s unfolded. There is categorically no doubt that the Italians have “improved a lot” this year, considering that in 2021 they were midfield runners. Whilst improving to second is great, Ferrari have bottled countless opportunities this season for more than four wins, with Leclerc having claimed three of them.

The twenty-four year old has enjoyed “fighting for wins” this campaign, but admits that claiming the title has to be “our target for 2023”.

“It was definitely nice to be fighting for wins again at nearly every race. It was the goal we had set ourselves and now we must continue to work to take the steps that we are still missing and that has to be our target for 2023. In this area, I think stability is paying off. This year we have improved a lot and I’m sure that with the whole team pulling as always, together we can reach the goals we have set ourselves.”

Whilst fighting for second is the Ferrari star’s priority this weekend, Leclerc has shared his thoughts on the imminent departure of his first Ferrari team-mate, Sebastian Vettel. The German who is, of course, retiring after Abu Dhabi, partnered Leclerc at Ferrari in 2019 and 2020, a period of time where Leclerc revealed that the four-time World Champion was “always very supportive”.

Leclerc Is going to “very much miss” the fifty-three time Grand Prix winner, who he hails as a “very special” person.

“If we talk about the driver, he is a great champion who took four world titles and did great things, including with Ferrari. But it’s above all as a person that he is special. When we were teammates, he was always very supportive, open to help me based on all his experience. But even before I was alongside him in the garage, I knew he was particularly attentive to others.

“In fact, when I was still in Formula 2, I had begun doing some work in the simulator for the Scuderia, but I didn’t think the race drivers knew about that or understood its value. But then one day, I found a thank you letter signed by him. It was very gratifying and the two seasons I spent alongside him were very special from a human point of view. I will very much miss his presence in the paddock.”

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Carlos Sainz admits he’ll do “all I can to help” Leclerc

On the other side of the Maranello-based team’s garage, there isn’t much on offer for Carlos Sainz Jr, who has seen himself slip to six points behind Lewis Hamilton to claim a top five finish in the Drivers’ Championship. The Spaniard is currently facing the unwanted position of bottom of the frontrunners, otherwise known as the ‘big six’.

He performed well at last weekend’s São Paulo Grand Prix to claim a much-needed podium, at a time when on overall package the Italians appear to have fallen behind their German rivals. Despite this, it appears that Ferrari’s priority might be to help Leclerc claim second rather than claim a top five for himself, with the Spaniard prepared to be a “loyal team-mate” at the season finale.

“I have always been a loyal teammate and I will do all I can to help Charles if he needs it.”

Like Leclerc, Sainz reflected on his campaign, one which has been full of misfortune and bad luck. The Spanish driver has been somewhat in Leclerc’s shadow at times this season but has shown his true potential in glimpses, most notably at the British Grand Prix where he claimed his first-ever victory.

Sainz believes he can’t “be disappointed” in 2022, due to having claimed a maiden win and having finally felt “completely comfortable” in the F1-75.

“There’s no doubt the F1-75 is a competitive car, but my season was affected by some limiting factors, such as the four races where I didn’t even complete the first lap. However, I cannot be disappointed, as I got my first win and, after a difficult start, I reached the level of driving that I wanted and now I can say I feel completely comfortable in the cockpit.”

Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office