Traditionally, Ferrari announces new F1 drivers at Monza, on the eve of the Italian Grand Prix. With that event having been and gone, speculation is rife as to whether Kimi Raikkonen – who has enjoyed something of a resurgence of late – will keep his seat, or whether the team will take on young Charles Leclerc, the young man from Monaco whom may are touting as the sport’s next superstar.
Earlier in the season, Leclerc was subject to a wealth of rumours insisting he had already signed for Ferrari for 2019. The death of Sergio Marchionne – who was very much a Leclerc fan – seemed to put a damper on things, and Raikkonen was suddenly back in the flame. Last week, however, it became known that Leclerc had driven a 2018 Ferrari earlier in the year as part of the permitted ‘filming days’, and his graduation now appears to be back on, with certain German publications reporting it is now a done deal.
Ferrari has undergone two humiliating defeats in a row – the latest on home ground at Monza – and many observers are pointing the finger at Sebastian Vettel, indicating he is making mistakes under pressure. This appeared to be the case in the Italian Grand Prix where the German was involved in a first lap incident with Lewis Hamilton that cost Vettel any chance of a win.
It is widely believed that, in fact, the 2018 Ferrari is the best car on the grid, yet Vettel now trails Hamilton in the driver’s championship by more points than are available for a win, hence overhauling his rival will now be very difficult.
Should Ferrari’s signing of Leclerc be confirmed – indeed, it appeared to have been accidentally leaked when a company headed by the brother of Ferrari Chairman John Elkann congratulated Leclerc on its website in a message that was hastily removed – then it would be an indication that they are looking to the future for their champions, rather than the present – a wake up call for Vettel if ever there was one.