F1 Papers: Charles Leclerc confirmed he's world champion in waiting at Bahrain GP
Monday's national newspapers hail young Ferrari driver after Bahrain GP victory ripped from his grasp
Last Updated: 01/04/19 4:53pm
Charles Leclerc confirmed he is a "world champion in waiting" with his performance at the Bahrain GP and his reaction to the engine trouble which cost him a maiden F1 victory, Monday's newspapers say.
The 21-year-old had taken his first F1 pole on Saturday and then built up a near 10-second lead over Lewis Hamilton with just 11 laps remaining on Sunday when his Ferrari suffered a loss of power, leaving him a sitting duck for the two Mercedes.
Leclerc escaped with a podium after a late Safety Car, but the F1 press do not think it will be long before he is standing on the top step on a regular basis.
"The Monegasque's composure and skill on track and his extraordinary maturity in dealing with this harshest of slings and arrows confirmed this young man is a world champion in waiting," Giles Richards wrote in The Guardian.
"He had lost places from pole but held his nerve, fought back and retook the lead in a marvellous display of confidence and commitment, putting his four-times world champion team-mate to the sword.
"Leclerc is a prodigious talent who will doubtless go on to win. Head bowed before he emerged from his car, by the time he climbed out he had, like all the greatest drivers, already moved on."
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The Times' Rebecca Clancy also hailed the youngster's maturity in dealing with his crushing setback.
"It will take time for Leclerc to really understand what he achieved in Bahrain. Right now, the pain of the win being ripped from him is too raw but he should take a lot of confidence from this race," she wrote.
"When he secured his first F1 career pole on Saturday, comfortably ahead of his four-times world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel, few were surprised, such is his talent.
"He showed great maturity during the race, and after, in what must have been a crushing result."
Ferrari said in pre-season that they were likely to "prioritise" Vettel, their lead driver over the past four years, if needed at the start of this campaign.
But the Press Association's Phil Duncan thinks Leclerc's performance across the weekend leaves Ferrari having to reconsider their position.
"On Saturday, Leclerc delivered a statement of intent by blowing away team-mate Sebastian Vettel to clinch his maiden pole," he wrote.
"Leclerc was signed by Ferrari after an encouraging debut season with Sauber, but Vettel's number one status within the team was expected to go unchallenged. This weekend however, has felt like a changing of the guard.
"Vettel, the man who Ferrari have backed to end a championship drought which stretches back to 2008, was thrashed in qualifying, the race, and then catastrophically spun when duelling with Hamilton. He finished fifth."
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