Monza, Italy: Former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has brushed aside suggestions that Charles Leclerc is poised to replace Sebastian Vettel as lead driver of the Italian team.
Three days after the Monegasque’s near-flawless maiden triumph at the Belgian Grand Prix, the man who oversaw two great title-winning eras with Ferrari made clear that it much too soon to promote Leclerc.
Speaking at Ferrari’s 90th anniversary celebrations in Milan late Wednesday, Montezemolo said Leclerc needed a great defensive drive from the four-time champion German to secure the victory that he dedicated to his late friend Anthoine Hubert, who died at Spa-Francorchamps last Saturday.
"Sebastian was crucial for the victory -- I think without him, it was very difficult for Leclerc to win the race ... Very difficult, because Sebastian was able to hold back Hamilton for a few laps.
"Sebastian is for me still very, very good ...Vettel is not a number two. Vettel is a number one and Leclerc is in the process to be a number one. So, it is good to have two number ones."
Montezemolo was the young team manager under Enzo Ferrari who helped guide Niki Lauda to his title successes at Ferrari in 1975 and 1977. He was later the architect of the glory years of Michael Schumacher with Ferrari.
Ferrari secured their first victory of the season with Leclerc’s win last weekend and will seek a first home win since 2010 at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
The future of the race, one of the most traditional and iconic in Formula One history, was secured on Wednesday when a new five year contract to 2024 was agreed and signed with the sport’s ruling body and organisers.