Ferrari's Driver Dilemma
With Seb out of contract for next year, who should Ferrari choose as Leclerc's teammate for the future?
At the end of last year, Charles Leclerc signed a new five-year contract with Ferrari, the longest of any driver on the grid. After an impressive first year in red which saw him take two wins and beat teammate Sebastian Vettel to fourth in the drivers' championship I feel this new contract unofficially makes him Ferrari's number one driver as Vettel's future is still undecided with his contract up at the end of 2020. Because of this I've decided that it might be a bit of fun to look at who could be Leclerc's teammate for the future.
Hamilton after winning at Silverstone last year. Image credit- NDTV
Rumours of Lewis Hamilton moving to Ferrari have gathered steam over the last year or so and Lewis himself hasn't ruled out the possibility of it happening. I personally don't see why Hamilton would leave Mercedes as they are currently the team most capable of allowing him to break the few remaining records he hasn't already broken. Nearly all of these are held by Michael Schumacher, a man who knows a thing or too about winning for Ferrari. It seems as though Hamilton likes the idea of one day racing for Ferrari (and not being booed on the podium at Monza) but I can only see this move happening after he has achieved his dream of becoming the undeniable F1 GOAT or if Mercedes were to abruptly leave the sport (which doesn't seem that unrealistic these days). As for Ferrari, I don't know if signing Hamilton would make sense as by giving Charles an impressive new five year contract they've made it clear that he is their choice as the driver who is going to bring them their first drivers' championship since 2007 and placing a six-time world champion alongside Leclerc could possibly unsettle him.
The current McLaren man looking bored in a press conference. Image credit- elespanol.com
The fiery 25 year old Spaniard is my pick for this seat if Vettel's contract isn't renewed. In 2019 he led McLaren (along with the help of rookie Lando Norris) to best of the rest in the constructors' standings as well as himself being able to finish a very impressive sixth in the drivers' standings. The highlight of his season being a podium in Brazil after a chaotic race in which he started last and finished fourth, with a post-race penalty for Lewis Hamilton who finished ahead of him on track promoting Carlos to the podium. I think Sainz would be perfect alongside Leclerc as he is no doubt talented and quick enough to be able to bring home consistent podiums and some race wins for Ferrari if given the chance. He also wouldn't pose as much of a threat towards Leclerc as someone like Lewis Hamilton would, therefore giving Ferrari an effective driver pairing that could be reminiscent of the Alonso and Massa era.
Kvyat with his trophy after securing third place at last year's German Grand Prix. Image credit- f1-fansite.com
Another driver who claimed a shock podium in 2019, Daniil Kvyat has been on the F1 grid for nearly every year since 2014 despite still being just 25. Crucially, the only full year that he spent not driving in F1 during this time was when he was a development driver for Ferrari in 2018. This is the main reason why he has been rather quietly linked with this seat should it become available. Kvyat is a quick driver, we saw this when he outscored Daniel Ricciardo in his only full season at Red Bull before he was harshly dropped just four races into 2016. However, I feel that Ferrari would only sign Kvyat if they wanted a complete number two alongside Leclerc and it doesn't seem as if they do, judging by their increasing interest in Lewis Hamilton.
Giovinazzi in his Alfa Romeo teamwear. Image credit- Sky Sports
Like Leclerc, Giovinazzi is a product of the Ferrari Driver Academy and currently races for Alfa Romeo, Leclerc's former team. Most definitely the wildcard in this debate, Giovinazzi came 17th in the drivers' standings last year, 29 points behind his teammate Kimi Raikkonen. Although it would be a source of pride for Ferrari to have their first Italian driver since Luca Badoer stepped in for Felipe Massa in 2009, they should only sign Giovinazzi if they want a number two for Leclerc. In this case I think Daniil Kvyat (see above) would be the better option. In my opinion, Giovinazzi should count himself lucky if he ever finds himself racing full-time for Ferrari in Formula One.
It's been a while since we last saw a 'shoey' in Formula One. Image credit- Sky Sport
After getting tired of battling with Max Verstappen at Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo joined Renault for 2019. Ricciardo wanted to be the number one driver at a team with which he could win races and later challenge for championships, but he understood that Renault couldn't deliver this straightaway as they were still far behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. After a disappointing 2019 though, Renault now have an even bigger mountain to climb. They only finished fifth in the constructors' standings, slipping below McLaren, while Ricciardo himself only managed ninth in the drivers' not even managing the podium he had wished for. The big decision for Ricciardo now is, does he stay or does he go? Should he wait around at Renault for another two years before the next major regulation shakeup in 2022? Or should he get out of midfield mediocrity as soon as possible and look for a seat back at the top of F1 with Ferrari? It's the latter. Renault will most likely not be able to make huge strides during the next two years and by 2022 Ricciardo will be coming 33 so he doesn't have a whole lot of time on his hands. His best bet is to try and beat the other drivers we've already looked at to Vettel's seat at Ferrari. From Ferrari's point of view Ricciardo would be an experienced teammate to Leclerc who could win them races and possibly help them win their first constructors' championship for over a decade. But isn't that what they've already got with Sebastian Vettel?
Vettel on the podium after winning at Singapore last year. Image credit- thepeakmagazine.com
I know that the whole point of this article was looking at who could be Leclerc's teammate for the future and it may seem stupid talking about the man who already is but Vettel could still be one of the best options out there for Ferrari. Last year was somewhat disappointing for Vettel as he only managed fifth in the drivers' standings, one place behind Leclerc. Despite this, he still managed to take one win at Singapore, beating Leclerc to the win. There may be a few better options out there but Sebastian Vettel is still one of the best drivers in Formula One and it would make sense for Ferrari to keep him in the team because of his vast experience and raw speed. It also seems very likely that Vettel will stay as speculation is growing that he will sign a one-year extension with a hefty cut to his salary.