Binotto: Leclerc enhances ‘myth’ of Ferrari like Gilles Villeneuve

Mattia Binotto believes Charles Leclerc helps to “enhance the myth” of Ferrari in Formula 1 in a similar way to Gilles Villeneuve, one of the Scuderia’s best-loved drivers.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari 312T of Gilles Villeneuve

Leclerc made his debut for Ferrari in 2019 after just one year in F1 with the Alfa Romeo team, but quickly won over the team by shadowing Sebastian Vettel in his first campaign at Maranello. His performances were rewarded with a long-term contract that runs to the end of the 2024 season.

Leclerc finds himself in the midst of an early title fight in 2022, having won two races and scored five pole positions in the opening seven rounds of the season. He currently trails Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by nine points at the top of the standings after Ferrari dropped the ball on tyre strategy in Monaco.

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As part of an event at Fiorano, to mark 40 years since Villeneuve’s death in qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, Leclerc was given the opportunity to drive the Canadian’s Ferrari 312T car from 1979.

Asked by Autosport about the similarities between Leclerc and Villeneuve, Ferrari F1 boss Binotto noted the way both were embraced by the fans and helped enhance the Ferrari story in grand prix racing.

“If I look at Charles, [it’s] the way he is driving, his talent, and more than that, it’s the passion, the passion of the fans for him,” Binotto said.

“Being [part of] Ferrari is somehow trying to enhance the myth of the cavallino [Ferrari’s prancing horse]. There are only few drivers which are capable of doing that, and I think Charles is one of these, as was Gilles.

“Gilles was fantastic. Gilles won only six races, but remains for all the tifosi and the cavallino the driver. It really was his way of driving, his way of behaving. It's the passion he showed.

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“And I think Charles has got that, and that's something which is great. We are passionate as well ourselves, and we hope that he will win more than six races.”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari 312T of Gilles Villeneuve

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari 312T of Gilles Villeneuve

Photo by: Ferrari

Villeneuve raced for Ferrari from 1977 until his death, and finished as the runner-up to team-mate Jody Scheckter in the 1979 championship.

Leclerc noted after driving Villeneuve’s car just how basic the safety standards were back in the 1970s compared to today, thanks to the advances made by the FIA over the years.

“If you look at the time and the cars they had, they were so dangerous,” added Binotto.

“If you had an accident, you know what can be the consequence. And today the cars are very, very safe, I would say, compared to what it was, and that is thanks to all the effort FIA, F1 and the teams put into it.

“The drivers were really mad, because of the amount of risk they were simply accepting, and I think today it's certainly safer.”

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