Ferrari must have a No.1 driver but has a 'big problem' with Leclerc

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Ferrari must designate a No.1 driver and faces a "big problem" with Charles Leclerc, former president Luca di Montezemolo claims.

 

The Monegasque has made a big impact on the Italian team in his first season, winning twice and scoring seven poles, the most of any driver on the grid.

That performance has also put the Scuderia in an unusual position of having to give both drivers equal status, something that has been cited as a potential obstacle to Ferrari beating a Lewis Hamilton-led Mercedes.

“I think one of the problems Ferrari had this year was managing two top drivers like Vettel and Leclerc,” Di Montezemolo told Radio Rai.

“I always bet on one driver to win the title and the other to help bring points for the constructor ranking, sometimes to take points away from our opponent to [help] our No.1 driver."

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Leclerc's promotion from Alfa Romeo was itself a unique decision by Ferrari, with Charles becoming the youngest driver for the team in 50 years, and that also brings its challenges.

“I will think a lot about the future for Ferrari. Leclerc is a really very fast, young driver, he surprised everybody, nobody expected to see him so fast in his first year but he talked too much on the radio," Di Montezemolo continued.

“He is very good, but we have to careful. He has to grow in time, not too fast. This is a big problem.”

Given Leclerc's performances and his potential longevity, however, many believe Ferrari shouldn't be afraid to shun Vettel and let the man from Monaco lead.

"I think this is one of the difficult things that he [team boss Mattia Binotto] has to get on top of because I think Vettel can do damage to Leclerc's chances of winning the title, which I don't think Bottas can do to Hamilton," former driver Eddie Irvine said this week.

"The only guy who I think can race at the same level as Hamilton is Leclerc. Hamilton always destroys Vettel in a head to head.

"If you look at what Leclerc did to Hamilton in Monza, it was probably illegal but it was so perfectly done that it was hard to punish him for it," the Irishman added.

"That's why I am really interested to see Leclerc head to head with Hamilton more often."

Another ex-Ferrari driver, Felipe Massa, agreed.

"He is a very talented young man, but the thing that strikes me most is his head, his ability to manage pressure," he told Motorsport Italy.

"I don't know whether he's faster than [Max] Verstappen, but the seven pole positions achieved in his first year with Ferrari say a lot.

"He made some mistakes, but I think we all have to consider his still limited experience in F1 and it was his first year in a top team.

"But he's a future world champion, and I think we won't have to wait long. I do not exclude that he can achieve that goal even before Verstappen."

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