Binotto: Leclerc can be a “clear leader” like Schumacher

Leclerc joined Ferrari for the 2019 season after an impressive rookie season with Sauber, having been part of the Italian marque’s junior programme since 2016.

The Monegasque driver won two races in his first season with Ferrari, prompting the team to sign him to a long-term contract running until 2024.

Team principal Binotto said there were comparisons that could be drawn between the rebuild taking place at Maranello upon Michael Schumacher’s arrival at the team in 1996, and what is currently taking place around Leclerc.

“I often compare it, I think there are similarities, no doubt,” Binotto said on the Beyond the Grid podcast.

“Ferrari at the time, 1995 to 2000, was investing. We were investing as we are investing today, investing on technologies, but investing on 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, but is developing well.”

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Ferrari has struggled through the 2020 season due to a lack of engine power and aerodynamic weaknesses with the SF1000 car.

But Leclerc has produced a number of stand-out performances, scoring two podium finishes to sit sixth in the drivers’ championship with almost triple the points of teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Binotto felt that Leclerc had driven better through 2020 than in 2019, when he finished fourth in the championship.

“This year, he drove even better than last year,” Binotto said.

“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 qualy 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.”

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