Mattia Binotto: Charles Leclerc driving at a level to be an F1 world title contender
Mattia Binotto believes Charles Leclerc is currently driving at a level that can take him to a World Championship title.
The Ferrari driver has diced with Max Verstappen at both races so far this season, the pair taking one win apiece as they have fought at the sharp end of the field.
After being narrowly beaten by his team-mate Carlos Sainz over the course of last season, Leclerc has flown out of the blocks in 2022 and was largely the quicker of those two drivers in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – although Sainz has “interesting theories” to explore in how he can turn the tables.
The Monegasque driver signed a long-term deal with Ferrari as his future with the team was cemented, and Binotto says that faith placed in him was borne of the fact the team feel he has the talent to keep fighting at the top in a front-running car.
“I think he is,” Binotto told reporters when asked if Leclerc is driving like someone who could be a title challenger, per The Independent.
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) March 30, 2022
“But it’s something I was expecting when renewing as well with him in the last year for up to 2024, because we know what he is capable of.
“I think he is simply demonstrating he is capable of fighting for the championship.
“No doubt he’s got the talent, he’s got the capacity. He is a very good racer and we are very happy with what he has proven in these two races.”
Leclerc himself has been coy so far about his chances in a title fight, with Ferrari looking to keep a lid on their expectations for the season until several races have passed.
Being as self-critical as he is, Leclerc believes there is still more performance to find within himself – but is currently unsure as to whether or not it will be enough for him to take a maiden title.
“I’m quite happy about this start of the season, for sure,” Leclerc said. “I’m working well with the team and the preparation for the first races was very good, so I feel good in general.
“But there’s definitely more to come. The thing I’m happy about is not really the performance, but I know exactly where I still need to work and what I need to improve to unlock more performance.
“Whether it will be enough or not to win the World Championship, I have no idea. It’s still very early in the season but let’s say it’s a very good start.
“As I said many times, I think development will be key and we as drivers need to help the team in the best way possible to keep this competitiveness.”
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