Charles Leclerc would like to see former GP3 Series rival Alexander Albon make the step up to Formula 1 with Toro Rosso in 2019, having picked the current Formula 2 racer out as the outstanding driver from his junior career yet to reach the pinnacle of motorsport.
Leclerc beat Albon to the GP3 title in 2016 before the pair made the move up to F2 the following year.
While Leclerc is coming towards the end of his first full year in F1 and is confirmed for a move up to Ferrari for 2019, Albon has remained in F2 through 2018.
However, the Thai racer is understood to be on the verge of securing an F1 seat with Toro Rosso for 2019 in place of Brendon Hartley, with talks ongoing with Nissan to prise him from a signed contract in Formula E.
Speaking about the bevy of young talent currently in F1, Leclerc named Albon as being the main rival from his junior career missing from the grid, and expressed his hope that this would change for 2019.
“I’m not sure yet if he’s not going to make it, but probably Alex Albon.” Leclerc said.
“He for me has been really strong, and I really hope that he takes the seat that he’s rumoured.”
Albon had originally signed to race with Nissan in Formula E from the start of the upcoming season in December, but was pulled out of pre-season testing in Valencia at the last minute due to an approach from Toro Rosso.
Were Albon to join the F1 grid for 2019, Leclerc would be racing against the majority of his junior career rivals, dating back as far as go-karting.
“I know most of them obviously. Max [Verstappen], Pierre [Gasly], Esteban [Ocon], now also [George] Russell that will come in next year,” Leclerc said.
“Lando [Norris] was a bit younger than me. But I think it’s good. We have all pushed each other in the lower categories, especially in karting, then in car racing we all took different roads.
“We know each other from karting, and I think we have grown a lot racing each other. It’s just great to see that we are all ending up in Formula 1, which I don’t think we expected so many of us fighting in the lower categories to be fighting in Formula 1."