Vettel not anticipating unnecessary conflict on-track with Leclerc in 2019

by James Eagles
Charles Leclerc & Sebastian Vettel - Formula 1 - 2018 Monaco GP

Sebastian Vettel has said that he is not expecting “anything wrong on-track” with his new Scuderia Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc next season.

Ferrari junior Leclerc has been promoted to the senior line-up after a stellar rookie year with the affiliated Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, even battling on-track with Vettel on occasions, scoring 39 of the Swiss team’s 48 points. The move sees Vettel’s outgoing team-mate Kimi Räikkönen return to Sauber, the team he started his Formula 1 career with nearly 18 years ago.

In the four seasons Räikkönen and Vettel had as team-mates between 2015 and ’18, the German enjoyed a comfortable advantage over the Finn; outscoring him by a cumulative total of 335 points. Much was made of the on-track dynamic between Vettel and Räikkönen, Vettel viewed as the clear ‘number one’ driver, with the pair also enjoying a healthy relationship away from the circuit too.

21-year-old Leclerc has been tipped to upset the balance at Ferrari ahead of 2019, believed to be a more potent on-track threat to Vettel.

Despite this, the four-times champion speculated that there will be no difference in their rivalry in comparison to the one had with Räikkönen and expects no misbehaviour on-track between himself and the Monégasque.

“I don’t know Charles so much yet, he doesn’t know me,” Vettel told Autosport. “He’s a good kid, so I don’t expect that there’s anything wrong on-track.

“We will be rivals as much as Kimi and myself have been rivals. You will try to get first and if you do that you beat everybody else, also your team-mate.”

The German also acknowledged that the pair are at different stages of their careers.

“We will see, we also know we want to bring Ferrari back to winning ways. For him it’s a different point in his career compared to mine,” he added.

“I think time will tell, but from what I know now and how much I know him now, he seems like a good guy.”

Earlier in the season, Vettel said that he would have liked Räikkönen to have stayed on as his Ferrari team-mate, suggesting that Ferrari would be wrong to rush Leclerc into a promotion, but ceded that the decision was not ultimately his.

Leclerc’s emergence into Ferrari has been compared to that of Daniel Ricciardo‘s promotion to Aston Martin Red Bull Racing in 2014, the Australian getting the better of the then-reigning world champion, ending in Vettel’s departure from the team for ’15.

Yet Leclerc, who made his first appearance as a full-time Ferrari driver at the end of season tyre test in Abu Dhabi late last month, remained humble in his attitude when quizzed on the matter.

“I have to continue to grow and be focused on the areas where I’m still weak,” Leclerc said to Autosport.

“I will try to learn from everyone in the team and also from my team mate. [The winter programme is to] get ready as much as I can.

“I can’t wait to be in the car in the first test and in the first race.”

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