Charles Leclerc says securing his first two Formula 1 race wins acts as evidence Ferrari were right to promote him to the team in just his second year in the championship and silences his critics.

Ferrari created headlines last year signing Leclerc in just his second season in the sport with experienced hand Kimi Raikkonen going the opposite way to Alfa Romeo.

Having shown flashes of quality at the start of this season, notably leading the Bahrain Grand Prix before a mechanical issue robbed him of victory, Leclerc came under fire for mistakes – most notable crashing during qualifying at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix having been the quickest driver all weekend.

Leclerc, who has bben openly critical of his own mistakes, feels taking victory in both Belgium and Italy acts as evidence to back Ferrari’s decision to promote him at the age of 21.

“It has not been an easy start to the season, I made a few mistakes, but it is not an excuse,” Leclerc said. “I’ve grown a lot since the beginning of the season.

“I understood the critics of last year, me being too young as it is my second year in F1 and in Ferrari already was early for sure, but I can only thank Ferrari for believing in me. They had a lot of data which they analysed.

“It was not an easy decision. In the end, I’m happy to have these kinds of results which show that I was maybe more ready than some people thought.”

Describing the pressure he withstood from the attacking Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas during the Italian Grand Prix, Leclerc says he was aware of the significance of his victory at Monza – marking Ferrari’s first home win since 2010.

“I don’t know how you say it in English: Libération? Freedom. More or less this,” he said about his Italian GP win. “How many laps were there in the race? 53 laps felt a lot longer than 53 laps.

“As I’ve said, I felt a lot of pressure from behind. So, obviously, from once I crossed the finish line it is just pure happiness.”

Leclerc has also lifted himself above Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel in the F1 standings, taking fourth place off the German driver, while he has closed up to just three points behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in third place in the drivers’ championship.

 

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