Charles Leclerc admits the mood at Ferrari has been “different” since Sebastian Vettel departed.
The four-time world champion appeared to have an increasingly difficult relationship in his final years with the Scuderia, even being informed he would be replaced for 2021 before the 2020 season had even began
After that, Vettel went on to have his worst full year in Formula 1 as Ferrari themselves slumped to sixth in the Constructors’ standings, their worst finish for 40 years.
However, this year, since the arrival of Carlos Sainz, the Italian team has been back on track, currently fighting McLaren for third in the Championship.
“It’s different,” Leclerc told RTL on how Ferrari has changed since Vettel’s exit.
“For Carlos, I still remember exactly how it feels [when you first arrive] and you can imagine how motivated and happy he is about everything.
“The mood has changed a bit in the team.
“I can’t tell what went wrong for Seb last year because he is a great guy who works very hard.”
Sainz also heaped praise on his predecessor, crediting Vettel for helping him become the driver he is today.
“I have known Seb for many years and in my career, he has always been a point of reference for me,” the Spaniard told Italy’s Repubblica.
“I spent endless hours in the simulator at Red Bull Racing while he was winning the World Championship and I learned a lot from his way of doing, both on and off the track.
“He is definitely one of the best drivers in the history of this sport and I will always consider him a role model to follow in many respects.”
But after Leclerc led Ferrari largely alone last year, Sainz has been surprisingly more competitive against the highly-rated Monegasque, sitting just two points behind him.
“This is Formula 1,” he said of the challenge against Leclerc. “The 20 best drivers in the world are here and inevitably you will have to compete against them if you want to become world champion, even if they are teammates.
“It’s part of the game. If you are afraid of going against any driver, this sport is not for you.”