Formula 1: Charles Leclerc says he will be happy if Sebastian Vettel stays at Ferrari despite last season's on-track clashes

Vettel, 32, is out of contract at the end of 2020 but Ferrari have said he is their first choice, subject to negotiations, to partner the young Monegasque whose deal runs until 2024.

Reuters April 23, 2020 12:50:30 IST
Formula 1: Charles Leclerc says he will be happy if Sebastian Vettel stays at Ferrari despite last season's on-track clashes

London: Charles Leclerc says he would be happy to have Sebastian Vettel continue as his Ferrari Formula One team mate next season, despite their clashes on track last year.

Vettel, 32, is out of contract at the end of 2020 but Ferrari have said he is their first choice, subject to negotiations, to partner the young Monegasque whose deal runs until 2024.

Formula 1 Charles Leclerc says he will be happy if Sebastian Vettel stays at Ferrari despite last seasons ontrack clashes

File image of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc on the podium along with Max Verstappen after the Singapore GP. AP

A decision could come before the start of a season stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reports in Italy have suggested, however, that Ferrari also have Renault’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren’s Spaniard Carlos Sainz in mind as leading alternatives if a deal falls through.

“I am very happy with Seb,” Leclerc told reporters in a virtual news conference.

“It (the relationship) was good even though we’ve had some few problems on the track, like in Brazil.

“I think it has always been a good relationship even though from the outside it was probably not seen as it was but it’s always been good between us.”

Leclerc beat Vettel on race wins, poles, points and podiums last year in what seemed at times an uneasy pairing of a hungry young gun with a champion used to having top billing at Maranello.

They clashed on track on occasions, with their radio comments making headlines.

“I will respect Ferrari’s decision for whoever is next to me and at the end it’s my job to adapt to the person next to me and you can always learn from whoever is your team mate,” said Leclerc.

“I will welcome anybody. But if Seb stays I will definitely be happy.”

Leclerc has filled his time in lockdown with esports, training and doing his best to stay mentally in the zone needed to go racing.

He said the world of virtual racing had helped keep concentration levels up, with the 22-year-old winning four races last weekend including his second virtual F1 grand prix in succession.

The next target is to race against Vettel in the virtual world as well.

Vettel told reporters last week that he had also recently got a simulator but, with three young children keeping him busy, had still to set it up properly.

“I’m not racing against Seb yet but I will definitely send him a text very soon whenever he has finished his installation to try and race with him a little bit, which will be fun,” commented Leclerc.

The Monegasque has also attracted quite a following on his Twitch streaming channel and he said he was enjoying the interaction with fans and fellow racing drivers.

“My main priority is to try and entertain the people at home. And obviously keeping myself also entertained and try to train on the simulator,” he said.

“It’s a tough time for people being at home that don’t have much to do.

“I’ve had a lot of positive reaction to what I was doing on Twitch with all the other F1 drivers, people saying it will help them going through these tough times. I was very happy to see that.”

Leclerc likes idea of reverse races when F1 returns

Leclerc also said he likes the idea of racing in the “wrong” direction once Formula One emerges from the global COVID-19 lockdown.

The sport is considering various options to get its stalled season started, with grands prix likely to be held without spectators and some European circuits hosting more than one race.

There has even been a somewhat fanciful suggestion that the British Grand Prix circuit at Silverstone might host back-to-back races clockwise and anti-clockwise on the same or successive weekends.

Leclerc, holed up in the Monaco apartment where he has been strumming his guitar, playing the piano, winning esports races and working on improving very basic cooking skills, said he would be up for that.

“I’ve seen something about doing races the other way around, that would be very, very cool,” the 22-year-old told reporters in an online news conference. “This could be an interesting idea.

“We would definitely have to re-learn the track completely from scratch. I’ve done this in karting, to do one track in one way and then do it the other way.”

“I think it would be very exciting to do a track like Silverstone the other way around, to arrive so quick in Becketts and then Maggotts would be very exciting.”

Silverstone’s managing director Stuart Pringle said this month that the idea was maybe not so crazy but, asked about Leclerc’s comments, recognised there were too many obstacles to overcome.

“Very few circuits are built for use in both directions and Silverstone is no exception,” he told Reuters. “All of the important safety aspects are designed and installed for clockwise racing.

“Whilst we have the space to be able to extend the run off areas, realistically we don’t have the time, or in the current climate, the ability to do so.”

Asked whether it would be fair to hold multiple races at the same track, given that some cars are better suited to certain circuits, Leclerc said it was a reflection of special circumstances.

“I think you can always argue the fairness but at the end we mostly need to look at the situation and try to make the most out of it,” he said.
“We should look also at this possibility to try and have the most races possible.”

Leclerc hoped there might be at least 12 races but if eight was all that could done then it could still be an exciting season, even if Mercedes’ six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton would remain the favourite.

“We might have some surprises and it might be actually quite exciting to watch,” he said. “Probably we will risk a bit more on track with risky strategies, risky overtakes and maybe it will pay or maybe not.”

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