Nicolas Todt: 'Leclerc is my greatest pride"

Driver manager Nicolas Todt, who was instrumental in guiding Charles Leclerc’s path to Ferrari, says the Monegasque is his greatest pride.

The Scuderia announced on Monday that it had rewarded Leclerc with a new five-year contract that secures the two-time Grand Prix winner’s future with the Italian outfit until the end of 2024.

Todt, who managed the careers of, among others, Felipe Massa and Daniil Kvyat and also co-founded the very successful ART Grand Prix outfit, has been looking after Leclerc’s interests since the latter’s karting days when the son of FIA president Jean Todt stepped in at a time when the future Ferrari driver’s funding had dried up.

“I signed Charles at 14,” said Leclerc, speaking to Motorsport-Magazin. “He should have stopped karting because he ran out of money. I decided to help him.

“I introduced him to Ferrari a few years ago and today he drives there. And no one can say that he got there just like that. He’s there because we did the job.

“For me, someone like Charles is my greatest pride, the fact that he went there and delivered.”

Leclerc’s case underlines the necessity for a manager to identify as early on as possible young talent in order for an investment, in time or money, to pay off.

Todt’s company – called All Road Management and founded in 2003 – regularly scouts the junior ranks and currently has several promising young talents in its stall.

“I love finding future stars and helping them make their dreams come true,” admitted Todt, who puts his own money behind the young drivers he handles.

“I am the only manager who does it that way, that is my specialty,” he said.

“It’s easy to say: you have to do this, you have to do that. As long as it’s not your own money, you can give advice.

“You can say ‘buy this house’. But do you say: ‘Buy this house, we make 50/50?’ Then it’s a completely different thing. If I believe in someone, then I invest.

“Of course, I also try to find sponsors who help me. But if I don’t find sponsors, I’m the one who has to invest.

“I did that with Jules [Bianchi], I did it with Charles, and I do it with drivers who I think are special.”

Todt admitted that a young driver’s performance in the junior ranks is not a guarantee of future success, as Red Bull has often found out.

But the 42-year-old only invests in those for who he has the strongest conviction.

“One can also make a mistake,” he said. “I really need to be as sure as possible that my choice is right. But you can’t just make good decisions. Mathematically speaking, this is not possible.

“Check out Red Bull: They had 15 drivers in the past. Of the 15, maybe two or three are in Formula 1 today.

“You make bad decisions along the way. And I can’t afford to have 15 drivers because I don’t have the budget. So, I take a driver or two and hope that my choice was right.”

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Schumacher's manager backs Mick to succeed in F1

Michael Schumacher’s long-time manager Sabine Kehm has said that the seven-time world champion’s son Mick has what it takes to succeed in Formula 1.

She said that she believes Mick can follow in his father’s footsteps and one day claim the world championship for himself.

“I am sure that Mick will end up in Formula 1 sooner or later,” she told Die Welt newspaper this week. “Although I hope it’s the former!”

“I am convinced that he will do very well there,” she continued. “He’s already done a great job.

“I can only conclude that Mick will be able to realise his dream of becoming a world champion,” she added.

Schumacher clinched last year’s FIA European F3 title with a fantastic run of back-to-back wins to overhaul longtime series leader Dan Ticktum and was signed up to the Ferrari Driver Academy.

But he’s had a harder time since moving to Formula 2 in 2019. Although he was victorious in the Hungary sprint event, he’s failed to finish in five of the most recent six races.

As a result Schumacher is only 12th in the drivers standings with just 51 points for Prema, compared to ART’s Nyck de Vries who clinched the title at Sochi on 266 points with one round still to go.

“Mick has had a very unlucky season,” Kehm admitted. “I sympathise with him. He has struggled with an incredible amount of bad luck. And of course, he also still has a lot to learn.

“But Mick is very good at analysing things, learning the right lessons and then making adjustments,” she said, sticking to her view that he would make it all the way to the top of F1.

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However, the raised expectations of carrying the Schumacher name can undoubtedly be a heavy burden in motorsport, as much as it’s also a great honour. It’s why Mick initially started his racing career under the pseudonym of Mick Betsch

“Before I entered the Formula series I always used my mother’s name,” Schumacher told the Road to F1 podcast this month.

“That ensured that the hype was somewhat suppressed and that I had the time to develop,” he explained. “It also gave me the opportunity to learn at my own speed. That was very positive for me.”

But even then it was hard to keep the secret under wraps.

“If photos were taken, I was always the person who kindly asked if they would not do that so that we could safeguard privacy.

“Did I drive with more freedom when I had my mother’s name on the car? I wouldn’t call it that,” he said.

Race 2, Mick Schumacher (GER) PREMA Racing race winner

He also used the name Mick Junior, but eventually reached the point where he had to ‘go public’.

“From the moment I drove in the Formulas, it was a good time to consider putting my real name on the car,” he said.

He’s not getting used to being in the spotlight, including a demonstration run in his father’s F2004 at Hockenheim this summer.

“It was a strange feeling,” he told Autoweek. “Obviously I had never experienced something like that before. That was just a little bit of what my dad experienced.

“It was hard for me to imagine how it must have been for him, but it was nice. You really feel the vibe and the support of the people.”

And the experience has only made him hungrier to make it into F1.

“Sure, I think about it,” he said. “That’s my dream. It’s where I want to go, and that’s where I want to basically live my life.

“I feel ready,” he added.

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Valentino Rossi 'honoured' by Norris tribute at Monza

MotoGP icon Valentino Rossi says it’s an honour for him to have such a strong following in the Formula 1 paddock.

Lando Norris sported a Rossi-style racing helmet at last week’s Italian Grand Prix, and spoke at considerable length about his admiration for motorcycling’s ‘greatest of all time’.

“I’m very happy, I’m very proud, for me it’s an honour,” he said of the sight of Norris adopting his own racing colours for the event. “Lando did a great job, it was a great pleasure.

“Now we swap the helmet as soon as possible!”

The pair first met in August ahead of the British MotoGP at Silverstone. Rossi subsequently gave his blessing to Norris’ use of a tribute helmet in the Formula 1 race at Monza.

“It was an opportunity to make the race more special,” Norris explained. “More of a one-off and something to remember it by, having more of a connection with Valentino,.

“[He’s] the guy I’ve always looked up to, my hero,” he added. “So it is more of a dedication to him than anything else.”

Red Bull’s Alexander Albon is another driver to have spoken of his early devotion to Rossi, revealing that his choice of F1 race number 23 – half that of Rossi’s famous 46 – was purely intentional.

“I’ve always been a Rossi fan,” Albon admitted on Twitter at the end of 2018. “But since I can’t replace the Doctor himself, I thought I’d have half of it!”

“They said that they grew up following MotoGP, following me,” Motorsport.com quoted Rossi as saying on Friday ahead of the San Marino MotoGP at Imola. “That they are my fans – and it’s something good!”

“I like the feeling, especially because they are two very, very strong drivers,” he added.

“[Lando] is a very good guy. “He’s very young, because he’s 19, but he’s already very clever,” said Rossi. “He looks like he has a lot more experience than his age, so I’m also his fan.”

Rossi is hoping to swap his MotoGP bike for an F1 car later this year in a special event with Lewis Hamilton, who is also a fan of the two-wheel racing legend.

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