Charles Leclerc will not be Ferrari’s number one driver in 2023 – team principal

Updated

New Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur has told Charles Leclerc he will not start the season as his number one driver.

Following Mattia Binotto’s resignation, Frenchman Vassuer, 54, has been charged with ending Ferrari’s championship drought which stretches back to Kimi Raikkonen’s title triumph in 2007.

Leclerc, 25, started last year as a real contender to beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, but his challenge faded away through a litany of mechanical and strategic mistakes.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc is gearing up for his fifth season at Ferrari (David Davies/PA)

Leclerc is viewed within Ferrari as the man most likely to lead the team’s charge, but Vassuer insists he will not be awarded preferential treatment over team-mate Carlos Sainz.

“It is a clear situation,” said Vassuer, who was addressing the media for the first time since taking up his post at Maranello.

“We have two very good drivers and they are both able to do the job.

“We will have the capacity to provide them with exactly the same car, structure and support.

“The target is to win with Ferrari and for Ferrari and there will be no number one and number two.

“But if at one stage we have to take action, I will take action and it doesn’t matter if it is for one driver or the other.”

Leclerc won two of last year’s opening three rounds but added just one more victory from the next 19 races, ending the season 146 points behind Verstappen.

Sainz won just the single race – July’s chaotic British Grand Prix – and finished 62 points behind Leclerc.

Ferrari also trailed Red Bull by 205 points in the constructors’ standings.

But Vasseur is confident the Italian team has the tools in place to take the fight to Verstappen and Red Bull when the new campaign fires up in Bahrain on March 5.

The former Alfa Romeo team principal added: “When you are at a top team you cannot have another target than to win.

Former Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto
Mattia Binotto resigned as Ferrari team principal in November (David Davies/PA)

“You can’t start the season and say: ‘we want to finish second’. That shows a lack of ambition.

“We have everything to do a good job and the target is to win the championship and if you want to win the championship you have to beat Red Bull – I am convinced we have everything to win.”

Ferrari will unveil their new car on February 14 before the sole pre-season test in Bahrain, which takes place over three days and starts on February 23.

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