Charles Leclerc says Ferrari F1 move his ‘dream’ as 2019 talk mounts

Charles Leclerc has made clear that it is his “dream” to drive for Ferrari, as speculation intensifies that the Scuderia are lining up the in-form 20-year-old to replace Kimi Raikkonen for 2019.

In the best run by any Sauber driver for three years, Leclerc has scored points in three of the last four races with his form for the much-improved Swiss team leading to claims Ferrari’s management are seriously considering handing him the seat next to Sebastian Vettel next season.

“It’s a dream for any driver to be in this red seat and it’s a dream for me too,” Leclerc told Sky Sports F1 ahead of this weekend’s Austrian GP.

“It’s my dream.”

Ferrari have raced with the same pairing since 2015 but while Vettel’s contract runs to 2020 and the German is considered the Scuderia’s team leader, the 38-year-old Raikkonen has been on a succession of one-year deals and has not won a race since his return to Maranello in 2014.

Raikkonen, meanwhile, could interest McLaren were they to lose Fernando Alonso.

Charles Leclerc v Marcus Ericsson Leclerc Ericsson Qualifying 6 2 Highest grid position 8th 15th Highest in two-car finish 4 2 Best race finish 6th 9th Points 11 2 Championship placing 14th 17th

Leclerc is effectively on a season-long loan at Sauber from Ferrari, with the Monegasque driver having been on their young-driver programme since 2016.

Ferrari, F1’s most famous and successful team, have traditionally hired experienced drivers with a then-24-year-old Felipe Massa the only full-time driver they have hired under the age of 26 in the last 30 years. Massa had already been a test driver for a season at Ferrari and raced in three full seasons for Sauber, whereas Leclerc is in his rookie campaign.

Last year’s runaway Formula 2 champion had endured a challenging start to his season and been outperformed by team-mate Marcus Ericsson in the early rounds, but Leclerc has turned the tide since then.

26:32 Rachel Brookes is joined by former Head of Communcations at McLaren Matt Bishop and ex-F1 driver Will Stevens to look ahead to the Austrian GP.

And Ericsson acknowledged at the Red Bull Ring: “I knew he was going to be strong. I could see from the start he’s a very good driver. The last few races have been very, very strong but I also see myself I have improved and in the race last time out I was doing alright until my crash.

“So I just need to work hard and make sure I’m on the same level as him.”

Can Sebastian Vettel recover at the Austrian GP or will Lewis Hamilton extend his championship advantage? Watch every session live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Get Sky Sports F1.