Charles Leclerc is good enough to fight for the F1 title in his first season at Ferrari in 2019, according to his friend and rival Esteban Ocon.
Leclerc is replacing Kimi Raikkonen as Sebastian Vettel’s team-mate next year in a move considered a break with Ferrari’s traditional driver recruitment policy given he is only 21 years old and just completing his rookie season.
And while he is succeeding a world champion, and a driver who won last weekend’s race in Austin, Force India’s Ocon has tipped Leclerc to show his front-running credentials straight away.
“I think Charles will fight for the title next year, for sure,” Ocon predicted.
“At least it won’t be a surprise to me.”
Leclerc has impressed in his first season of F1 with seven points finishes for Sauber, outclassing more experienced team-mate Marcus Ericsson.
“I know he has a very good talent from day one and he’s one of the quickest guys out there,” added Ocon, who first raced against Leclerc in karting.
“He will show that next year, definitely.”
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Underlining a steady changing of the guard at the front of F1, three of the ‘big’ six seats at Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull will be filled by drivers aged 23 or younger next year.
By pairing Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly, Red Bull’s line-up will have an average age of just 22.
“Pierre and Charles are going to fight for wins and podiums and the mentality of Formula 1 is probably going to change seeing that young drivers can do the job too,” Ocon predicted.
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