Sebastian Vettel in Charles Leclerc tribute: 'He will be the man of the future'
Sebastian Vettel: "He gave me a headache here and there... but he's certainly a good kid and I think he will go a long way." Aston Martin-bound Vettel and Charles Leclerc swapped crash helmets after Sunday's Abu Dhabi GP finale
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 14/12/20 12:03pm
Sebastian Vettel paid a glowing and remarkable tribute to Charles Leclerc after their final race as Ferrari team-mates at the Abu Dhabi GP - describing the young Monegasque who has beaten him over the past two seasons as "the man of the future".
The changing of the guard at Ferrari over the past two seasons has effectively seen Leclerc, 23, usurp the 33-year-old former world champion Vettel as the Scuderia's number one driver. While Leclerc was awarded a new five-year contract this time last year, Vettel was told in May his deal would not be rewarded. He is joining Aston Martin for 2021, with McLaren's Carlos Sainz taking his place.
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And although Leclerc has dominated Vettel in 2020 amid Ferrari's worst season for 40 years and they have had several clashes between them on the track, most notably in Brazil last season, the mutual respect between the two has become clear.
"I will miss Charles," said Vettel, who swapped crash helmets with Leclerc after Sunday's race.
"Obviously he gave me a headache here and there, and we are at very different stages of our lives and careers.
"But he's certainly a good kid and I think he will go a long way, he will be the man of the future. I hope he gets the car he deserves."
Leclerc wore a white Vettel tribute helmet at F1's season's finale containing a thank-you message to the four-time champion. In a hand-written message on the helmet he gave to the youngster, Vettel said that Leclerc was "the most talented driver I came across in 15 years of F1" and urged the 23-year-old "not to waste it".
Posting his own tribute on social media, Leclerc tweeted: "I learnt so much from you as a person and as a driver in these last two years together.
I learnt so much from you as a person and as a driver in these last two years together.— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) December 13, 2020
Thanks for pushing me to improve all the time, it’s been a honor to be your teammate, and I honestly wish you the very best.
Top driver and a Top Man pic.twitter.com/4UwsTT4spC
"Thanks for pushing me to improve all the time, it's been a honor [sic] to be your teammate, and I honestly wish you the very best. Top driver and a Top Man."
At his 118th and final race for the Scuderia after six seasons, Vettel was given a guard of honour by the team's mechanics as he left the garage for the final time ahead of the race and was awarded a large trophy in the pit lane afterwards.