Charles Leclerc finished the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season in thirteenth place, but vastly outperformed his Alfa Romeo Sauber and teammate Marcus Ericsson.
The rookie entered F1 hot off the back of back-to-back titles in GP3 and Formula 2, and ex-Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello believes mentality will be key to Leclerc’s next step.
“I’m super excited for him,” Barrichello told Motorsport.com. “He’s one of those young guys who really made his way through [impressively].
“To get into Ferrari [and be successful], the only thing you need is to be really good in your head. Talent, we know he has.
“It’s going to be a good challenge for Seb.”
Having finished ninth in Singapore, the Monagas went on to score his maiden ‘Class B’ win of the season the following race weekend in Russia.
Manoeuvres from Haas F1 Team drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean ruined his Japanese and United States GPs, but Leclerc bounced back with consecutive seventh-place finishes in the final three races of the season.
It was his final race in Abu Dhabi that moved ex-Ferrari and former Brawn team boss, Ross Brawn, now the sporting chief of F1, to declare that his move could also force Vettel to raise his game.
“Leclerc has been pretty impressive,” says Brawn. “He’s not had a tough reference yet and that will come in 2019.
“Being at Ferrari brings enormous pressure and he’ll have the pressure of racing against a world champion, a multi-world champion, so he’s going to have a pretty challenging year.
“But from what I have seen so far, I expect him to do a very respectable job.”