It’s fair to say that the last decade has been an absolute nightmare for the Ferrari Formula 1 team, not since Kimi Raikkonen won the World Championship in 2007 have the Italian team been on top of the world and despite having a wealth of world-class drivers Ferrari has been unable to end the dominance of Mercedes. However, thanks to the emergence of a young man from Monte Carlo Ferrari fans may well be dreaming of another World Title coming to Maranello.
The Long Wait For A Title
Charles Leclerc signed for Ferrari from the Sauber team at the end of last season and has quickly established himself as being the future of the Prancing Horse. Sebastian Vettel has led the team since 2015 and despite the four-time World Champion best efforts he has not been able to end the drought for Ferrari, in fact the Italian team haven’t got anywhere near winning the title since 2008 when Felipe Massa thought he won it for about 20 seconds only for Lewis Hamilton to break his heart in what was a dramatic last lap in Brazil. Since then Ferrari has been nothing more than a shadow of their former selves, with the weight of what was achieved by Michael Schumacher while he was in the famous red car weighing heavily on every driver that has sat in the cockpit. In 2009 Ferrari decided to sign the double World Champion Fernando Alonso to spearhead their campaign as they tried to take the fight to the then-dominant Red Bull team. Alonso came close in his first season but evidently fell short at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi. Over the next few years it was Red Bull and Vettel that dominated the sport and although Ferrari was there or thereabouts, they were never really in contention to win a Championship which frustrated Alonso and led to him leaving the team in 2014. That year Mercedes emerged as the new dominant force and Lewis Hamilton swept the rest of the field aside to take the Championship for a second time while Ferrari fell behind Mercedes and Red Bull, something had to be done. At the end of the 2014 season it was announced that Sebastian Vettel would be taking the number one seat with the Italian team and there was new hope that the four-time World Champion could finally end Ferrari’s drought. However, despite his best efforts a series of errors in crucial races over the last couple of years has meant that Vettel has always fallen short.
The Prodigal Son
When Ferrari decided to sign Charles Leclerc it was supposed to be as their number two driver behind Vettel but the Italian team knew exactly who they were signing. Leclerc started his racing career in 2014 taking part in various Karting series. He moved up the ranks very quickly with spells in Formula Renault, Formula 3 and GP3. In 2017 he got a seat with the Formula 2 team Prema Racing and was admitted into the Ferrari Driver Academy. Leclerc won the World Championship in his first season and a drive for Ferrari seamed inevitable. The next year he made the step into Formula 1 with the Sauber team, a sister team of Ferrari, and after a strong season Ferrari was very quick to sign the young prodigy. This season Leclerc had the unluckiest of starts, he was due to win his first Grand Prix in only the second race of the season in Bahrain but after leading the field by over 10 seconds Leclerc’s Ferrari suddenly lost power and the young star had to retire from the race. Leclerc spent most of the first half of the season in Vettel’s shadow as Ferrari struggled to keep pace with Mercedes, but after an impressive Austrian Grand Prix where again he was denied victory after he was pushed off the road by Max Verstappen, Leclerc has really come out of his shell. He has out-qualified his teammate in the last seven races and finally got his first race win a few weeks ago in Belgium. He backed that up with a victory at Ferrari’s home race in Italy, the first Ferrari driver to win at Monza since Alonso in 2010. What really impressed me about Leclerc’s victory in Italy is that he showed a calmness and maturity well beyond his age and demonstrated that he was willing to fight for the cause. The way he kept Hamilton at bay for the entire race was absolutely brilliant and a pleasure to watch and despite the Englishmen moaning about some of Leclerc’s defensive manoeuvres he stayed within the boundaries of the rules and defended his position tooth and nail. Leclerc’s ability to stay cool under pressure is something that Ferrari has been lacking in recent years, Vettel has a reputation for having a hot head and his mistakes when under pressure has cost Ferrari in recent years. Leclerc has already demonstrated that he can handle the pressure and moving forward has shown Ferrari that he is not just a number two driver.
Obviously, no one can predict the future but there is a strong belief within the Ferrari team that Charles Leclerc maybe the driver that can finally end the drought for a World Championship. Realistically he might be a little bit too far behind this season but next year Lewis Hamilton better watch out because there’s a new kid in town who I believe is ready to take the World Championship off him.