Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto believes Charles Leclerc has the ability to lead the team having shown attributes akin to former Scuderia talisman Michael Schumacher.
Having been with the Ferrari Driver Academy since 2016, Leclerc stepped up to Ferrari after an impressive maiden season in F1 with Alfa Romeo Sauber.
The Monegasque driver picked up two impressive victories in his first campaign with Ferrari, prompting senior management to hand him an extension to his contract until 2024.
Binotto also highlighted the team’s investment in youth, much like it did when Schumacher joined the team in 1995, as evidenced by the hiring of Carlos Sainz Jr. for 2021.
Speaking on the Official F1 podcast ‘Beyond The Grid‘, Binotto said: “I often compare it, I think there are similarities, no doubt.
“Ferrari at the time, 1995 to 2000, was investing. We were investing as we are investing today, investing in technologies, but investing in people as well, employing young people and young engineers.
“If I look at Ferrari in the last years, we have employed a lot of young engineers, which today are starting to become our foundations. There also was a leader as a driver, Michael at the time.
“I think today, we’ve got Charles. Obviously he’s not as experienced as Michael, because he’s not a world champion, while Michael was. We’ve got a clear leader on-track as a driver.
“I think that’s important as well. I think there is the commitment of the entire company to try to build a winning cycle in the future.
“Charles is a lot younger to Michael at the time. He needs, as often, to develop as a team. The success of Ferrari tomorrow will be somehow dependent on the way he will behave as a leader himself.
“But I think that while Michael was already a leader, Charles is developing as a leader and is developing well.”
After having been forced to make changes to its power unit for the 2020 season as well as further difficulties faced in other departments. The SF1000 has led Ferrari to endure its worst season in 40 years with the team currently sixth in the World Constructors’ Championship.
Despite the challenges, Leclerc has still managed to collect two podium finishes and score three-times as many points as outgoing team-mate Sebastian Vettel.
Binotto feels the trials of such a campaign has allowed the 23-year old to develop as a driver and grow stronger as a result.
“This year, he drove even better than last year,” added Binotto.
“I think with a difficult car as he’s got this year, he has been strong, consistent, he has been capable of adapting himself to the various track layouts, trying to extract the most potential of the car.
“The way he progressed was the way now he understands the tyres and can manage the tyres, not only on the single qualifying lap where he is very strong, also on the race pace.
“As a driver, he developed a lot. I think he is stronger, compared to what he was. That is experience, but not only as a driver, but I think as a man, he is growing. He is very linked and connected and committed to the team, to Ferrari, and I think that our people feel it very well.
“I like the way he is part of our family. He is really the right way of acting, and I appreciate his commitment.”