Formula 1 rookie Charles Leclerc says Alfa Romeo Sauber will be able to attack the 2018 season thanks to its return to up-to-date Ferrari engines having struggled throughout last year with a year-old power unit.

After struggling with financial issues from 2016 going into 2017, Sauber secured a cut-price deal to run year-old Ferrari specification engines last season. Consequently, as the F1 campaign progressed and developments continued for its rivals, the Swiss squad found itself marooned at the back of the grid with its lower power engines.

Sauber has secured a technical and title sponsor deal with Ferrari’s sister brand Alfa Romeo for the upcoming F1 season which Leclerc feels will put the team back in the midfield mix while he prepares for his debut having graduated as Formula 2 champion last year.

“Having the new 2018-spec Ferrari engine in place will be a big boost for the team. The newly formed partnership with Alfa Romeo is also exciting news,” Leclerc said. “As for my personal expectations – my primary goal is to continue developing my skills as a driver, and to gain as much experience in Formula 1 as I can.

“In terms of my expectations and goals, I will work hard to support the team in developing the car during the season, so that we are able to obtain the best possible results in the 2018 season.”

Looking ahead to his F1 rookie season, the 20-year-old says he isn’t fazed by the step up and is already feeling comfortable at the Swiss squad due to previous experiences thanks to 2017 tests.

“I have had the opportunity to get to know the team already, as I have completed four FP1 sessions and two Pirelli tyre tests in 2017,” he said. “From the first moment on, all of the team members were very welcoming and helpful, and made me feel comfortable.

“I have already worked with some of the Ferrari engineers in the past, and I know Frédéric Vasseur from my time in GP3, when I drove for his team, ART Grand Prix. We have always had a very good relationship and I look forward to building on this next year.

 “It feels absolutely amazing. Like for any racing driver, signing the first contract as a full-time driver in Formula 1 is a dream come true.”