Future Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc will be going for gold from the outset next season, insisting he expects to fight for the world title if the Scuderia provides him with the equipment to do so.
The 20-year-old was confirmed this week as Sebastian Vettel’s team mate, replacing Sauber-bound Kimi Raikkonen.
“My target is to do the best job with the car they have,” said Leclerc in Singapore.
“This year they have a car to win the title. If next year it is the same, obviously [the target] will be to win the title, which is a big thing.”
The Monegasque admits his ambition may be seen as a tall order given his relative lack of experience, but the high-profile talent is confident his skills can carry him where he wants to go next in his second season of Grand Prix racing.
“This is definitely the target, I don’t know whether I will achieve that or not but one thing for sure is I will give my absolute maximum,” he added.
“I have seen a lot of people who are doubting the decision, which is completely normal and I understand that but I will just try to prove these people wrong and do the best job possible.
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“Experience is always a plus, but I believe if you are good enough for an F1 seat, you are good enough from the year you arrive in F1.
“And if next year I don’t have the results good enough to stay in Ferrari, then it will be normal I downgrade. But then I don’t deserve a Ferrari seat and this is how I see the things.
“I will have to grow a lot and I need to deliver. I am not going to Ferrari to learn. I have had a very good season this year where I could learn the most of it. I have so much to learn still and I can still improve in a lot of things. But next season is to perform where you should be in a big team.”
One would expect a 20-year-old living the Ferrari dream to face a hefty amount of pressure to perform, but Leclerc believes he has the right mindset to deal with any ensuing heat.
“A lot of people think I will have a lot of pressure on my shoulders, but I really don’t,” he said.
“I have a mentality that is really taking off all the pressure. I focus on myself and don’t think about what people expect of me in the car.
“If I do the right job in the car, the performances will be there. I just fully focus on myself and the job I do in the car and then I think the results will come. I don’t really feel the pressure.”
As for how he intends on contending with Vettel, his four-time world champion team mate, Leclerc insists he will enjoy equal status at the Scuderia in 2019 and will be free to race with the German.
“It is more or less like this in every team,” Leclerc said.
“You have two drivers who start the season on equal status and then at one point in the season you see some team orders because one driver is in the running for the championship and the other is not.
“This is normal. But I believe they will let us race at the beginning of the season.”
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