Charles Leclerc has dismissed the notion Carlos Sainz’s arrival at Ferrari for the 2021 F1 World Championship season will mean he is automatically assured of number one status in the team.

The Monegasque will be joined by Sainz next season after the Spaniard was announced to be replacing Sebastian Vettel in what will be one of Ferrari youngest ever driver line-ups.

It is understood Vettel’s decision to leave was motivated by Leclerc’s growing status at Ferrari following a strong maiden campaign with the Italian team in 2019, during which he tussled with the German for number one priority.

With Leclerc going on to pen a new long-term deal with Ferrari over the winter, Vettel’s departure appears to assure him of a de facto team leader status over Sainz when he joins from the McLaren team next year.

However, two-time F1 race winner Leclerc says he fully expects Sainz to be on a par with him when they join forces, describing his arrival as ‘a terrific challenge’.

“I'm not going to be number one at Ferrari,” he told L’Equipe. “I think Carlos is a fabulous driver, and if that's not yet obvious to people, he will prove it at Ferrari from 2021. It will be a terrific challenge for me.”

Despite what appears to be a fractious relationship with Vettel following more than one on-track scuffle in 2019, Leclerc is nonetheless praiseworthy of his departing team-mate.

“He taught me a lot. I can count myself lucky to have him as a stable companion because he is an extremely experienced pilot.”

 

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