Charles Leclerc has been extended by Ferrari Scuderia for the next five F1 seasons, so he might be the one who appears closer in the mirror of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton for some time.
Leclerc is now with the team until 2024, although five years in motor racing of any kind is one form of eternity.
This was Leclerc’s first season at the top level, but he won the GP3 championship in 2016, more than enough to convince the Italians that he was their driver of the future.
He won twice and captured seven pole starts in his first F1 season, so Ferrari is now free to focus on bridging the performance gap between themselves and Mercedes.
Leclerc finished 2019 in fourth position, so he and Scuderia have a lot of ground to cover in the hunt to catch up.
The top two drivers both had Mercedes behind them and it would seem a better potential for Leclerc and Ferrari to overtake Max Verstappen for a place on the podium.
Leclerc failed to do that by a mere 14 points in 2019, while the gulf between he and Valtteri Bottas was 62 points, with Hamilton a distant 149.
Hamilton is out of contract with Mercedes at the end of the 2020 F1 World Championship, but the prospect of his moving to another team is in all probability much less than the prospect of his deciding to abandon racing after 2020.
Leclerc is a young man in a young man’s game.
More than a few races come down to whose reactions are the quickest and Leclerc has the reactions that enable him to delay braking going into corners, or get his foot back on the accelerator, precious nano-seconds ahead of competitors.
Leclerc ticked off the proper boxes when responding to reporters, saying, “I am very happy to be staying on with Scuderia Ferrari. This past season, driving for the most illustrious team in Formula One has been a dream year for me.”