‘Charles Leclerc is Ferrari’s key man, like Max at Purple Bull and Hamilton at Merc’ : PlanetF1

Felipe Massa believes Charles Leclerc can do for Ferrari what Max Verstappen is doing at Purple Bull and Lewis Hamilton did for Mercedes, billing the Monégasque driver because the Scuderia’s “key man”.

Final season, after two years and not using a single grand prix win, Ferrari have been again combating on the sharp finish of the grid.

Leclerc claimed two of the season’s opening three wins, Bahrain and Australia, to sit down on prime of the Drivers’ standings however, regardless of including a 3rd afterward in Austria, he wasn’t in a position to struggle for the title as his championship hopes have been undone by reliability points and botched methods.

He completed the season a distant runner-up to Verstappen whereas his team-mate, Carlos Sainz, was fifth having taken his maiden win on the British Grand Prix.

However whereas then crew boss Mattia Binotto was having to take care of Ferrari’s imploding season, he additionally needed to take care of questions on how Ferrari weren’t solely backing Leclerc within the title struggle given his benefit over Sainz.

That’s a query new crew boss Fred Vasseur has already been requested this yr, even earlier than the primary lap of the championship has been run.

He instructed the media: “What is evident is that the goal is to win with Ferrari, there will likely be no primary or quantity two.

“But when at one stage we have now to take motion, I’ll take motion.”

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Massa reckons when the time comes the Frenchman has to make the decision, the Brazilian backing Leclerc to be the one to struggle for the title for Ferrari.

“The automobile have to be profitable and the crew functioning, the remaining have to be carried out by the drivers,” he instructed Corriere dello Sport. “After 5 or 6 races you perceive who’s main.

“Final yr, after three grands prix, every thing was already clear.

“Sainz was the very best in his first yr, however the automobile was not aggressive. When the automobile was sturdy, in 2022, Charles was clearly on the prime.

“If he does the identical this yr, it will likely be troublesome for Carlos to recreate the state of affairs of 2021.”

He added: “Leclerc is among the best drivers in Formulation 1 for me, a key man like Max Verstappen is in Purple Bull and like Lewis Hamilton was for Mercedes.”

Vasseur was additionally requested in his first media briefing because the Ferrari crew principal about his drivers’ contracts, each out of contract on the finish of subsequent yr.

He made it clear he’s in no hurry to re-sign both.

“For me immediately this isn’t the primary precedence,” mentioned the previous Alfa Romeo boss.

“We’ve to start out the season very effectively then there will likely be time for the remaining, I believe it might be a mistake to start out negotiations at a time when the precedence is one other one.”

However with Mercedes mentioned to be already contemplating Leclerc as George Russell’s team-mate when Hamilton retires, Massa believes Vasseur ought to lock him into a brand new long-term deal earlier than this yr’s summer season break.

“If I have been in Fred Vasseur‘s position, I’d dedicate myself to the automobile and the crew and in the midst of the championship I’d suggest a contract extension,” he mentioned.

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