Having had a magnificent Formula 1 season on his debut season with Ferrari, Charles Leclerc impressed everyone except Esteban Ocon.
After a promising first season in Formula 1, Charles Leclerc quickly joined Ferrari where he succeeded Kimi Räikkönen. And the least that can be said is that the Monegasque was very impressive.
Winner of two Grand Prix and holder of seven pole positions, more than any other driver, Charles Leclerc even had the luxury of dominating his team-mate Sebastian Vettel in the overall classification. A success that did not surprise Esteban Ocon.
Third Mercedes driver last season, the Frenchman had warned the German team that Charles Leclerc’s was Mercedes real threat, not Vettel.
“I told everyone that Charles would beat Sebastian.” says Ocon.
“I told everyone, including Mercedes, that Charles would be at this level and beat Sebastian after a few races, and nobody believed me at the time. Now they believe me!
“I raced against Charles for a long time and he is one of the strongest guys, and I raced against him and Max, and they were the two best.
“So I’m not really surprised, but I hope that we will be racing for a very long time in Formula One, fighting for the title”. says Ocon.
Of course, Esteban Ocon is no stranger when it comes to causing shock waves in F1. Indeed during his last racing season 2018, the Frenchman had a big run in with Dutch driver Max Verstappen, most notably at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
That said, Esteban Ocon insists there is “respect” between himself and Max Verstappen.
“We are professional drivers, so the important thing is not to create any issues and what happened last time on track, happened on the track and we have to think separate.
“But, of course, there was some tension back in the days when we were racing really closely, but we always had respect between each other and that’s important.”
Asked what made the relationship that way, he replied: “Karting.
“We were racing really closely in karting as soon as we met, but also with Charles [Leclerc] it was probably even more fiery with him.
“When I left karting they were still racing together and it was fireworks a few times in karting and then in Formula 3 we were racing for the title.
“It was a big rivalry like it has always been in any sport between two guys.
“But as I said, the most important is to think on-track and think off-track. Off-track has to be respectful and that’s how it is.”