Binotto offers Leclerc-Gilles Villeneuve comparison

Jamie Woodhouse
Charles Leclerc smiling Ferrari logo. Monaco May 2022

Charles Leclerc smiling Ferrari logo. Monaco May 2022

Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto says Charles Leclerc joins Gilles Villeneuve as one of the few drivers to embody ‘essereFerrari’.

Villeneuve’s life was tragically cut short by a crash at Zolder in 1982, the Canadian racer having recorded six grand prix wins in Ferrari colours.

Skip forward to 2022, and Binotto was quizzed on whether he sees any parallels between Villeneuve and Charles Leclerc, who rose through the junior ranks as a Ferrari Academy member to join their Formula 1 team in 2019.

Binotto explained that Leclerc, like Villeneuve, is a driver who truly represents ‘essereFerrari’, translated to ‘being Ferrari’.

Charles Leclerc with his back to the camera as he waves to the crowd. Monaco May 2022
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc with his back to the camera as he waves to the crowd. Monaco May 2022

“I look at Charles, his driving, his talent but more than that, the passion…the passion the fans have for him,” Binotto told reporters.

“It is something that I call essereFerrari, being Ferrari is trying to enhance the might of the Cavallino. There are only a few drivers who are capable of doing that and I think Charles is one of these, as was Gilles.

“Gilles was fantastic with that, Gilles only won six races. It really was his way of driving, his way of behaving, the passion and I think Charles has got that.

“He has got that and that is something that is great, we are passionate ourselves and we hope he will win more than six races.”


Leclerc received the chance to drive Villeneuve’s 1979 Ferrari 312 T4 in May, honouring the Canadian racer 40 years after his passing.

The modern Formula 1 cars are far different pieces of machinery to those of Villeneuve’s time, safety advancements being one of the most crucial areas of progress in those years.

So much so that Binotto felt the drivers of that era were “really mad”.

“Obviously, it is 40 years after and the cars have changed a lot, the circuits have changed,” said Binotto.

“If you look at the time and the cars they had, they were so dangerous. If you had an accident, you know what can be the consequence and the cars today are safer compared to what it was, thanks to the effort the FIA and F1 teams have put into it.

“So I think at the time, the drivers were really mad because of the amount of risk they were accepting and I think today it is safer.”