Vettel: Leclerc hype is ‘absolutely justified’
Sebastian Vettel believes the hype surrounding Formula 1 rookie Charles Leclerc is ‘absolutely justified’ after the opening five races of his career.
Leclerc joined Sauber this season having won last year’s Formula 2 championship, with the Monegasque driver also part of the Ferrari Driver Academy.
His performances have also been enough for some to link him with a move to the Scuderia in place of Kimi Raikkonen for 2019.
“I think I was never that hyped when I came in,” admitted Vettel.
“I didn’t win GP2 (Formula 2) and I think the hype is absolutely justified.
“If there’s no hype around him, then I don’t understand who should be hyped because you walk through all the categories like that, then you belong here.”
It’s a sentiment shared by Mercedes driver and current world championship leader Lewis Hamilton.
“I’ve been watching him coming through and what he’s done in the last couple of years has been great to see,” Hamilton said.
“It’s just really great to see a really talented kid come through, that’s really just earned his way, like he really has the potential to do great things here and you can’t say that about every kid that’s come through in the past years and ultimately it’s very very difficult because it’s such an expensive sport.
“So you don’t always have the most talented that have the money but it’s great to see a real talented kid come through so I wish him all the best and the most important thing is to try and keep your feet on the ground, keep your family close and just enjoy the ride. Don’t take it too seriously.
“Every experience ahead is going to be a learning curve, good or bad, but that’s going to be a part of the making of who you are.”
In his first five grands prix, Leclerc has finished in the points twice, including a strong sixth place at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The 20-year-old currently sits 13th in the drivers’ championship, ahead of McLaren’s similarly highly rated Stoffel Vandoorne.
With Raikkonen out of contract with Ferrari at the end of the year, Leclerc has been one name mentioned in connection to the potentially vacant seat.
“I’m not signing who is sitting next to me but (you should) probably ask Maurizio (Arrivabene, Ferrari team principal),” responded Vettel when asked if he could be joined by Leclerc next season.
“I don’t see why not. Obviously he has more years than all of us here if you look at the passport.
“I think the races he’s had so far, he used his opportunities, he scored points with a car that doesn’t belong in the points so he’s doing everything he can at the moment.”