The replacement of Kimi Raikkonen with 20-year-old Charles Leclerc is indicative of the way driver recruitment is going, according to Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene.
As Raikkonen departs to rejoin Sauber and Leclerc prepares to partner Sebastian Vettel for Ferrari, while establishing himself as their youngest driver for 50 years, Arrivabene has stated that it was necessary to look to the future.
"Times are changing. The most important thing is to keep our DNA, but also to look forward to the future," Arrivabene told Sky Sports F1.
"If you look at the situation in the paddock today, Red Bull took Gasly alongside Verstappen and McLaren have Sainz with Norris who is a rookie."
While Monaco-born Leclerc’s youth is in stark contrast to Raikkonen’s status as the oldest competitor in the field, Arrivabene believes that bringing through Ferrari academy graduates, such as Leclerc, is the way forward for the team.
"Looking to the future, Mercedes making the choice two years ago [appointing Valtteri Bottas to partner Lewis Hamilton] they already have an advantage.
"The best way to be able to gain something is to make that choice and to grow up a talent that was born into the Ferrari driver academy."
While it has been noted that Vettel wanted to continue his partnership with Raikkonen, Arrivabene respectfully declared that it is not four-time world champion Vettel’s place to dictate recruitment.
"Sebastian is our driver, he is not a team principal, with all due respect.
"My job is to look at the overall situation, to discuss with my bosses, to give to them a long-term plan.
"When we were talking about the long-term plan, the decision is taken by the management and not by the driver."
Leclerc, a former GP2 champion, made an impressive impact in his F1 debut season with Raikkonen’s new employers Sauber.
But while the rumours have been rife that Leclerc would indeed join Vettel at Ferrari, the youngster insists that he was only told of his promotion at the recent Italian GP.
"Everybody in the paddock thinks l have known a long time, but l only learnt last weekend in-between Saturday and Sunday," Leclerc declared.
"Maurizio rang me that it was done. Before that, it was only rumours. The reality is that l didn't know anything and l was waiting on a decision from Ferrari. "It feels incredible. It is crazy. Since l was a child, l have dreamt of being a Ferrari driver. It is probably the most wanted seat in the paddock."
While Leclerc’s new teammate Vettel has expressed his support for outgoing partner Raikkonen, he has always shown respect and kindness to the youngster.
Despite this, Leclerc knows that Vettel is now his teammate and not his mentor.
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