Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto says new recruit Charles Leclerc’s rate of progress since his arrival has been a surprise for the Italian outfit.
The Scuderia drafted in Leclerc to replace Kimi Raikkonen in the off-season, and while the Monegasque trails his four-time champion teammate Sebastian Vettel in the points, he has delivered five of Ferrari’s 11 podiums and has not qualified behind Vettel since Canada.
“If I look at the first half of the season, I think [it’s] very positive, the way how Charles is growing,” Binotto told Motorsport.com.
“Because there was a lot of expectations at first, a lot of pressure on him, on his shoulders, because obviously driving a Ferrari is driving a Ferrari, and [especially] while you are so young.
“He's a talent, we knew it, but I think he's really learning from mistakes and that's more important. Even his collaboration with the team, his way of supporting the team in the development of the car, is improving race by race, day by day, that's another positive of the first half.
“We knew that he was a talent, we knew that he was very strong when attacking or defending, because we could've seen that in F3 [GP3] and F2.
“I think if there's anything that's surprising us is how much he's improving through the races. And I think race after race, his weekend is becoming more solid and solid, and I think he can even do better than what's he's doing.”
Binotto insisted recruiting Leclerc was “not a risk” - and while the move represented a step change for the normally experience-reliant Ferrari, he believes the Monegasque is a good fit for his “young team”.
He also emphasised, however, that the way Vettel responded to Leclerc’s arrival has also been a positive.
“He's dealing well with Charles, they are two good teammates,” Binotto added.
“He is very smart, he is very motivated, and I think that even for him it could've been a lot more difficult, that start to the season, but overall I think he knows how good he can be, and he's smart enough to understand the entire situation.
“I think he's still very supportive with the team, with himself, and he knows that he is an important pillar of our team for the present and for the future.”
Additional reporting by Roberto Chinchero