Ferrari will enter 2019 knowing it has been 12 seasons since they have won a F1 Drivers’ Championship and 11 since they landed a Constructors’ title. It is now the second longest drought in the team’s history; not nearly as bad as two-decade barren run of the 1980s and 90s, when McLaren and Williams dominated the sport, but nevertheless an unwanted streak for F1’s most iconic team.
While improvements to the car will undoubtedly have a massive impact on Ferrari’s fortunes in the new season, Maurizio Arrivabene has also tried to shake things up with the signing of Charles Leclerc. The 21-year-old Monaco-born driver was originally contracted for the 2019 season only, but Arrivabene soon signalled Leclerc would be contracted to Ferrari until 2022 at least. Quite the vote of confidence in a driver who has had just one season in F1 and never finished higher than 6th in a Grand Prix.
Leclerc finished 2018 season strongly
Of course, Ferrari, as with most avid followers in F1, have seen something special in Leclerc. He hit 39 points when driving for a poor Sauber team in 2018, nearly four times as much as team-mate, and more experienced driver, Marcus Ericsson. But it was the way that Leclerc finished the season that caught most people’s eye, with three consecutive 7th place finishes in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
That consistency and mastery of the clunky Sauber car obviously pleased Arrivabene, but there has always been a lot of hype around Leclerc. In 2017, he became the youngest ever winner of the F2 Championship at just 19-years-old. Even back as a very young teenager he was turning heads in karting and Formula Renault 2.0. Put simply, he has been hot property for half a decade, so it’s understandable that Ferrari have pulled the trigger on the youngster.
Outside chance for 2019 F1 Championship
How will he fare in 2019? Well, Leclerc is priced at 10/1 to win the 2019 F1 Drivers’ Championship. That makes him fourth-favourite behind Max Verstappen (4/1), Sebastian Vettel (7/2) and Lewis Hamilton at (5/6). Are those odds enough to tempt punters? It’s a hard sell given Hamilton’s dominance, but you can check out the best free bet offers from top bookies if you fancy a risk-free punt.
Indeed, such is the buzz surrounding Leclerc that bookies have released a host of markets specifically for the Monégasque driver. For example, Sky Bet have put it at 4/9 that Leclerc wins any race in 2019, which looks like a decent investment. In addition, you will find odds of 11/8 that Leclerc finishes in the top 3 of the Drivers’ Championship in 2019, which again looks a decent bet. 5/2 is also cited for Leclerc to outscore team-mate Sebastian Vettel across the season, but punters may be sceptical that Leclerc can outmatch the four-time champion.
In the end though, you would have to think Ferrari aren’t exactly thinking about 2019 when it comes to Leclerc. They may be thinking of the next decade, seeing the young driver as the potential ‘face of the sport’ for years to come. Other teams have snapped up wonderkids, such as George Russell (Williams, 20-years-old) and Lando Norris (McLaren, 19-years-old). They will hope to become household names over the next few years. But, for Ferrari and Leclerc, both the hope and expectation is that Leclerc will be one of the biggest names in motorsport sooner rather than later.