Bernie Ecclestone aims dig at Charles Leclerc as he reveals Ferrari’s private view

F1: Leclerc says Ferrari career has 'exceeded expectations'

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Former F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone has fired a dig at Charles Leclerc after the Monegasque was edged out as Ferrari’s top dog by Carlos Sainz in 2021. The Spaniard exceeded expectations during his debut season with the Prancing Horse, finishing as the highest non-Mercedes or Red Bull competitor in the Drivers’ Championship.  

Sainz finished off the season in style by claiming an under-the-radar podium in Abu Dhabi. 

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton stole the headlines with their breathless title shootout, but the Ferrari man came through to steal fifth place in the Championship from Lando Norris. 

In the process, he also secured top spot in the Ferrari garage, pipping team-mate Leclerc by 5.5 points after the 24-year-old came home 10th in Abu Dhabi. 

According to Ecclestone, Sainz’s success relative to Leclerc even surprised plenty in the Ferrari camp this year. 

“Carlos Sainz’s father called me and told me about his son’s situation,” the 91-year-old told Blick.

“Let’s put it this way… many people in Maranello are surprised the Spaniard was able to give team-mate Charles Leclerc such a run for his money in 2021.”

But the result seemingly did not come as much of a surprise to Ecclestone himself, whose dig at Leclerc suggests that he did not get caught up in the hype to begin with. 

“For me, Leclerc was always a very good driver but not any more [than that],” he added.

Leclerc came through the Ferrari Driver Academy and signed a whopping five-year contract when he was announced as Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement in 2019. 

That deal has since been extended by another two years, taking him all the way to 2026. 

But having been outdone in terms of podiums by Sainz this year at a rate of four to one, the youngster should have the bit between his teeth to prove Ecclestone wrong next season. 

The F1 landscape is set to see a shift in light of new regulations which all teams will have to get to grips with. 

Although Leclerc will be keen to re-establish himself as top dog, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has stressed the importance of cooperation in order to maximise performance. 

“What I think will be important at Ferrari is being capable of understanding weaknesses and addressing them very quickly,” he said.

“We cannot be confident of having a competitive car from the start, because you never know what may happen when you’ve got such a big rule change.

“But it is about being capable of addressing it as soon as possible.”

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