Former F1 title-winning boss Flavio Briatore says that Ferrari wasted a season with Kimi Raikkonen, believing that the team should have promoted teenage sensation Charles Leclerc earlier.
Raikkonen resigned with Ferrari back in 2014, after having previously campaigned with the outfit between 2007 and 2009, including winning the 2007 world championship.
When Ferrari Driver Academy star Leclerc exploded onto the scene by winning the 2016 GP3 title and the Formula 2 crown the following season, Ferrari opted to keep Raikkonen on board for another season and instead promote Leclerc to a seat with Sauber.
Speaking on F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast, Briatore told host Tom Clarkson that it would have been more sensible for Ferrari to promote Leclerc to the team directly out of his Formula 2 campaign.
“Leclerc is young. [He has] big balls, because he’s demonstrating [that].
“I believe if I was at Ferrari, I would have put Leclerc already two years ago to replace Raikkonen, because, you know, with Raikkonen you are going nowhere.
“You’ll never win [anything] with him. You know at the time I would take the risk and put Leclerc [in the car]. Leclerc is a really, really strong guy.”
Raikkonen won only one Grand Prix throughout his second stint with Ferrari at the 2018 US GP to mark the Finn’s first win since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix, some 2,044 days earlier.
When Leclerc joined Ferrari last season, the Monegasque won two Grands Prix and secured seven pole positions – the most of any driver – to finish 4th place in the championship, ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel.
However, Leclerc did not manage to beat fellow rival Max Verstappen. The young duo often cited as the next generation of world champions.
“Leclerc is not recognisable now,”added Briatore.
“Verstappen for me is the more incredible driver. He is fantastic in the way he is overtaking, the way he is a gladiator.”