Alfa manager Zehnder: 'Special' Leclerc a combination of two Ferrari legends

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"Very special" Charles Leclerc is a combination of two Ferrari legends, Alfa Romeo team manager Beat Zehnder claims.

Fresh off winning the GP3 and Formula 2 championships back-to-back, the young Monegasque made his Formula 1 debut with the then-Sauber team back in 2018.

Despite a steady start initially, Leclerc would soon establish himself as one of the top midfield runners, leading the Swiss outfit to their best season since 2013 in the process as they finished eighth in the Constructors' standings.

"It was a very good season, it was a very interesting season working again with a young kid," Zehnder recalled speaking to Autosport as Sauber celebrates 50 years in motorsport.

"We've done this before, but for the first time in a long time, we had a newcomer, a very special driver with a very special attitude.

"I've never seen a driver like Charles before, and it was again very rewarding for all the work we had, for all the difficult times we had, to work with a kid again.

"I've always said that for me, from his speed, he's Kimi Raikkonen, and from his working attitude, he's probably Michael [Schumacher].

"Give him a good car, and he's going to be world champion, definitely."

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Leclerc's performances were such that Ferrari instantly promoted him to the Scuderia in 2019, replacing Raikkonen, and he would go on to claim two wins and seven poles, beating Sebastian Vettel in the championship as a result.

"I could tell straightaway that this guy is special, this is a special talent," Charles's 2018 teammate and current IndyCar driver Marcus Ericsson commented.

"When I saw him joining Ferrari and going up against Vettel, I knew he was going to be super-competitive - but maybe not that he was going to be as good as he was, only in his first year with Ferrari.

"I could tell that he is a very, very special driver and talent. He's definitely helped me to show what kind of driver I am.

"I think especially when he went on and the way he drove last year with Ferrari, [that] has also helped me I think in a way."