FEBRUARY 19, 2018
Leclerc relishes F1 debut for Alfa
Charles Leclerc says he is relishing his new role as a works 'Alfa' driver.
The reigning Formula 2 champion has been signed up for 2018 by Sauber, the Swiss team now run by a boss from his junior days, Frederic Vasseur.
"I've known Charles since his karting days," Vasseur told France's Auto Hebdo.
"I'm happy because this is the first driver I've had in the junior categories that I now work with in F1."
Vasseur said Leclerc's approach to his Friday duties last year was particular impressive.
"He did not miss a single debriefing," he revealed.
"I will not mention anyone, but there were others who would have returned to the hotel. All the drivers are fast, but the champions have something else as well."
Sauber is sponsored by the Ferrari-linked Italian carmaker Alfa Romeo this year.
"There are so many people telling me 'You will race with Alfa', almost forgetting about Sauber," Leclerc smiled. "But that is just the strength of a great name.
"Being part of a team with an Italian soul is beautiful," he said.
Vasseur said he is sure Leclerc will shine in 2018, but less certain is the potential of his teammate, the now experienced Swede Marcus Ericsson.
But Vasseur told Blick newspaper: "He seldom had good equipment so his chances were limited.
"But he was good in the last 10 grands prix. He has developed a lot, he is a team player and he gives good feedback."
For the Sauber lineups of the future, however, Vasseur has high hopes.
"I have worked with young drivers for 20 years," said the Frenchman.
"I am planning a junior academy at Sauber, probably from 2019," he revealed. "But there must be real potential, as with Charles Leclerc."
Vasseur said Sauber's 2018 car will be ready for testing next week.
"It will be at the first test in Barcelona," he said.
"In the next few days, many parts will arrive and then assembly begins. Like all the teams, we will be working until the last minute."
F2 champion Leclerc, however, told Autosprint: "It will be very difficult for me to replicate my Formula 2 season.
"Everything was perfect, both from the team and personal point of view. Now everything changes.
"Formula one is completely different from everything else. There is pressure, but not too much," he said.