Former Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine believes the Scuderia should focus its efforts on Charles Leclerc, the Ulsterman insisting the Italian outfit has lost wins this season for not sacrificing Sebastian Vettel.
The always blunt and outspoken Irvine berated Vettel earlier this year, calling the four-time world champion a “massively overrated one trick poney”.
The four-time Grand Prix winner also expressed his admiration for Charles Leclerc, declaring the Monegasque the leader of the sport’s young generation of drivers in his book, and a smarter and better racer than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Leclerc has seven poles and two wins to his name this season against Vettel’s two poles and single triumph, a feat that hasn’t surprised Irvine.
“I thought Leclerc had a good chance of beating him because I don’t think Vettel is a worthy four-time world champion,” Irvine said in an interview with Betway in Italy.
“I think he is a very good driver, but he makes a lot of mistakes and I never really thought he was that fast.
“We saw it with Daniel Ricciardo and we’re seeing it again now. Vettel got an amazing deal with Ferrari. I was surprised because it was at a stage where he was getting destroyed.
“I think Ferrari have to focus on Leclerc. We’ve seen this season Vettel not being sacrificed because he is a four-time world champion – they’ve lost wins because of it.”
Irvine, who worked alongside current Scuderia boss Mattia Binotto, says the intra-team rivalry between Ferrari’s drivers will need the Swiss’ utmost attention next year.
“I think this is one of the difficult things that he has to get on top of, because I think Vettel can do damage to Leclerc’s chances of winning the title which I don’t think Bottas can do to Hamilton,” Irvine added.
The 53-year-old former driver’s praise for Leclerc is such that he claims that he is the only man on the grid that can rival with Hamilton.
“The only guy who I think can race at the same level as Hamilton is Leclerc. Hamilton always destroys Vettel in a head to head.
“If you look at what Leclerc did to Hamilton in Monza, it was probably illegal but it was so perfectly done that it was hard to punish him for it.
“That’s why I am really interested to see Leclerc to head to head with Hamilton more often,” added Irvine.”