Future leader Leclerc shares 'winning mentality' with Michael Schumacher, says Ferrari boss
Charles Leclerc is carrying a torch once held by Michael Schumacher, with the young Monegasque driver well on the way to becoming Ferrari’s team leader, according to his boss Mattia Binotto. But the Scuderia’s team principal reckons it’s not only leadership skills that Leclerc has in common with the seven-time world champion…
Speaking to F1’s official podcast Beyond the Grid, Binotto shared his memories of joining Ferrari in 1995, the same year that Schumacher won his second title with Benetton and signed a contract to drive for Ferrari for 1996, for the start of what would be a legendary tenure at the Scuderia. But how does current driver Leclerc compare to Schumacher?
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“Both are very talented drivers,” said Binotto. “I think that Charles is one driver that is certainly a talent; he’s fast, he’s capable of overtaking, he’s fantastic in protecting the position. I think he’s got the mentality in which winning is a clear objective for him and I think that what is pushing him in all his actions is that he will always try to win.
“He is not simply there to participate, but I think he is there to win. And when he puts his helmet on, he is on the track as a racer – second place is never satisfactory for him, as it wasn’t for Michael.”
Schumacher joined Ferrari as a two-time champion, bringing his experience and leadership skills to the team to help them win five consecutive drivers’ titles from 2000 to 2004. And Binotto added that Leclerc had lots to learn from the seven-time champion if Ferrari were to return to the summit.
“Charles is a lot younger to Michael at the time,” said Binotto. “He needs to develop as a leader of the team… because the success of Ferrari tomorrow will be dependent as well on the way he will behave as leader himself.
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“But I think that while Michael was already a leader, Charles is developing as a leader. But he is developing well.”
While Ferrari have just endured a first winless season since 2016, Binotto added that there were similarities with the Scuderia of today and that of the Schumacher era.
“I often compare it; I think there are similarities, no doubt,” he said. “The first, I think, is that Ferrari at the time, 1995 to ’98, 2000, we were investing as we are investing today. Investing in technologies but investing in people as well, so employing young people and young engineers.
“I look at Ferrari in the last years, we have employed a lot of young engineers, which today are starting, becoming our foundation and I think that there also was a leader, as driver – Michael [Schumacher] at the time; I think today we’ve got Charles [Leclerc] who is… not as experienced as Michael and is not a world champion while Michael was, but I think that we’ve got a clear leader on track, as driver, and that’s important as well.
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“I think there is the commitment of the entire company to try to build a winning cycle in the future and I think there are similarities, yes, there are,” he concluded.
Ferrari are aiming to climb back into the top three in 2021, with ex-McLaren ace Carlos Sainz on board alongside Leclerc for the upcoming season.