Jenson Button wants Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to upgrade his ambitions this season and take the fight for the title to Lewis Hamilton.
Leclerc performed well during his maiden season with the Scuderia, securing his first two wins with the Italian outfit, clinching more pole positions than any other driver in 2019 and outscoring teammate Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ championship.
For his second season with the House of Maranello, his third in F1, Button sees no reason why the Monegasque can’t give Hamilton a run for his money and challenge for the title.
“Charles has gone through that honeymoon period at Ferrari and now it is about knuckling down and this year has got to be the year he fights for the championship,” Button told the Daily Mail.
“I can’t wait to be watching what unfolds at Ferrari. I really think they will pull it together and take it to Mercedes.”
Leclerc lost no time last year staking his claim at Ferrari, but the 22-year-old’s intra-team rivalry with four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel led to the pair squandering points for the Scuderia.
Button insists the two drivers must focus on its biggest rivals – Mercedes and Hamilton – rather than on each other.
“I think the dynamic was just wrong within the team,” contended the 2009 F1 world champion.
“I think now they have a much better understanding of each other and I really feel they are going to be a strong team in 2020.
“As soon as they realise they have to be fighting Lewis, rather than each other, they will have a great chance of being at the front of the fight and fighting for the championship.”
Vettel’s future, with Ferrari and perhaps in F1, will likely depend on how he performs relative to his up-and-coming teammate this year.
Button isn’t discarding the 32-year-old and actually believes he might find himself in a position of force if he plays his cards right.
“Being a four-time world champion and this young kid coming in and outscoring him and getting more pole positions than him,” explained the Sky F1 pundit.
“That’s tough, really tough, and it is how you handle that.
“I don’t think at times he handled it great but now looking back he has got the experience of working with him and everyone looks at how Charles is as good as Sebastian already so it is a little bit easier.
“Now he goes out and if he is a bit quicker then it’s ‘oh, he’s a bit quicker, I’ll work here and outperform him in the next race’ and I think that’s a good place to be for Sebastian. It’s a much stronger position to be in I do feel.
“When you are beaten by a young kid in your team it hurts, a lot. How many hours he has put into working with Ferrari, four world championships with Red Bull, that really does hurt.
“I think he will be a much more confident driver and will make less mistakes in 2020. If he doesn’t… he probably won’t be at Ferrari in 2021.”