Last Updated: 11/09/18 12:25pm
Sky F1’s Martin Brundle believes Charles Leclerc replacing Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari signals “a changing of the guard” in F1 – even if the Finn is staying in the sport with Sauber.
Leclerc has been appointed Sebastian Vettel’s 2019 team-mate at Ferrari while Raikkonen has signed a two-year to rejoin Sauber.
The promotion of the 20-year-old Leclerc follows McLaren’s decision to fast-track British teenager Lando Norris onto the 2019 grid and Red Bull naming Pierre Gasly as Max Verstappen’s new team-mate.
“There is a changing of the guard going on in F1 with the likes of Verstappen and co,” said Sky F1’s Brundle. “There is an army of young drivers coming through who are well prepared in every way.
“I’ve got mixed feelings. I’m pleased Kimi is staying on but mostly I wish that Kimi had stepped aside at the top when he was revered, letting a young guy take his seat on the grid.”
Leclerc is Ferrari’s youngest driver since 1961 and will face one of the hardest tasks in F1 next season when pitched against Vettel in the Scuderia cauldron.
“Raikkonen has scored around 60 per cent of Vettel’s points in recent seasons. If they are going to take a world championship, which is very important to Ferrari, they need to move it on from there,” commented Brundle.
“It will energise Vettel, it will energise the team.
“Being a works Ferrari driver isn’t for the faint-hearted, especially against Vettel. I think he will be a revelation but we will have to see how he copes with the pressure. Ferrari will have to protect him and give him breathing space.”
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Despite the lack of any historic precedence of Ferrari turning to youth, Leclerc’s promotion was widely expected in the paddock. Less predicted was Raikkonen’s return to Sauber and a deal which will see the 2007 world champion still driving in F1 in his forties, a prospect running against the tide of the sport’s recent charge of the young brigade.
“Moving to Sauber will take him to his 41st year,” noted Brundle. “It’s a bit surprising but l do admire him wanting to carry on racing.
“There are a lot of great young guys without a seat in F1 right now: Esteban Ocon, Stoffel Vandoorne and George Russell, who is winning the F2 championship.
“Kimi has been great for Formula 1 and Formula 1 has been great for him. I hope it isn’t a step too far for him. But he has a gift with any machinery and last week he was on pole position with the fastest lap ever, so he still has the speed. I just hope he doesn’t regret hanging on too long.”
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