Earlier in the week, Haas confirmed that they will be retaining the services of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for 2018, with both drivers getting points on the board in a very tight scrap for midfield supremacy.
But the Ferrari-affiliated squad’s announcement has reduced the odds of Ferrari protege and F2 star Charles Leclerc from getting an F1 seat for next season because a place at Haas would have provided an ideal stepping stone into F1. It appears that the driver from Monaco will have to try and convince Ferrari and more importantly, Sebastian Vettel, that he can be competitive from the start of his inevitable upcoming F1 career.
GP2 rebranded itself to F2 this season, with the FIA wanting more alignment on the single-seater ladder. Whilst a change of name goes some way to achieving this, the proof has to be in the pudding–the pudding being a promotion of an F2 driver into Formula 1.
There is no better candidate for this than Charles Leclerc. He hasn’t just dominated the championship so far, he has proven to be a cool head when uncomfortable situations emerge. This happened at Silverstone, when a loose oil cap simulated what looked to be an engine failure, with smoke flying out of the back of his car. Leclerc was able to retain his composure, and convert a sixth pole of the season into a fifth victory.
Leclerc will be testing for Ferrari at the upcoming tests in Hungary, which will provide him an excellent opportunity to gain some experience with the aggressive era of the F1 car, and pick up some vital data for the Ferrari team.
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) July 18, 2017
Nobody really expects Ferrari to take a risk on the highly promising Leclerc, and the influence that Vettel has at the team will work against the young driver. But the team should consider him, especially given the dominance he has displayed in F2 so far. Vettel wants Kimi to stay on for another season, as it’s more comfortable for the German. It would be great to see Ferrari show a bit more ambition and bring Leclerc into the team for 2018. Vettel would be less comfortable, but would be pushed more too.
Leclerc is on to win the F2 title this season, which will prevent him from entering the competition in 2018. Sitting around for most of the time as Ferrari’s test driver would see race-craft rust initiate, so if he isn’t given the seat, expect him to race in a championship like Super Formula in Japan, a route Vandoorne had to take whilst waiting in the wings for his chance at McLaren.