23-year-old F1 racing driver Charles Leclerc has opened up about the influence that former teammate Sebastian Vettel had on his career, and he has denied rumours of there being tensions throughout the two years they spent together at Ferrari.
Leclerc finished in second at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone earlier this month, losing the top spot after he was eventually caught up by Lewis Hamilton.
While speaking on Formula 1’s ‘Beyond The Grid’ podcast last week, Leclerc was asked about his most competitive teammates in F1, with him saying that he cannot pick between Vettel and new teammate Carlos Sainz.
“Seb [Vettel], in his good days – I mean, the last year [in 2020] was more difficult for Seb, but in his good days, he was just incredible, and just incredibly difficult to beat, if not impossible. And Carlos [Sainz] is just very, very consistent, so it’s different approaches, but both of them were very, very strong.”
Leclerc then emphasised the differences between Vettel and Sainz as teammates, with him claiming that “With Seb it was a little bit of a different relationship.”
“I saw him a little bit more like an older brother. I mean, he had so much experience that it was different, it was not the same time of competition that I had with Seb than what I have with Carlos.”
He added that since Sainz is of a similar age to him, he is competitive with everything, while Vettel had more experience, and so he ended up being less competitive with everything.
“If I wanted to win something, he would basically let me win this thing and I would be happy and he wouldn’t care,” Leclerc jokes.
“Then once you put on the helmet, this whole relationship stops. You just think about the performance, you just think about trying to extract the maximum from the car, and especially, beat the guy who has the same car as yours.”
This rivalry between teammates led to some clashes between Vettel and Leclerc, particularly at the 2019 Brazilian and 2020 Styrian Grands Prix.
Vettel was also famously unhappy with the 23-year-old after believing that his 2019 Italian Grand Prix qualifying was compromised by Leclerc, which then handed Leclerc pole position, and eventually to win the whole competition.
Leclerc then signed a five-year contract extension with Ferrari at the end of 2019, while Vettel was told that his services would no longer be needed, leading to him joining Aston Martin.
However, Leclerc dismissed claims that there were ever any tensions between the pair, even after they were no longer teammates, with him saying that “It wasn’t that bad actually” when speaking about managing his relationship with the F1 veteran.
He stated that the Brazil Grand Prix was probably the only moment when their relationship was quite difficult to manage, yet he stressed that it was only right after the race, due to the heat of the moment.
Leclerc also claimed that the pressure from the media did not help, as it tried to “make things exciting, and try to make people think there were actually tensions when there weren’t.” “We knew there weren’t tensions, but we were also asked at every race we came to whether there was tension, and I think we managed it very well.”
The two will be looking to compete with each other once again in the Hungarian Grand Prix next month, with Vettel winning the 2015 and 2017 editions of the competition, while Leclerc has shown glimpses of promise in recent races.
Who do you think will come out on top in the Hungarian Grand Prix?
Let us know on our socials!