#16 CHARLES LECLERC
Charles Leclerc joins the F1 pack this year after a record breaking season in F2 in 2017. It seems a matter of when, not if, this Ferrari Young Driver will take his place at the legendary Italian team. Will 2018 be a rookie season to remember?
|Full Name||Charles Leclerc|
|Date of Birth||16th October 1997|
|First Race||2018 Australian Grand Prix|
Charles Leclerc’s first racing experience came when he was just four years old, at a karting track managed by the father of Jules Bianchi. Born and raised in Monaco, Leclerc had a very acute awareness of Formula One from a very early age. He began karting in 2005, winning multiple national and international competitions over eight years of competition. Leclerc graduated to single-seaters in 2014 and completed a season in Formula Renault 2.0, where he scored seven podiums and an impressive double win at Monza. In 2015, he moved up the ladder to the Formula 3 series, inheriting pole at his first race and finishing the season fourth in the championship. He also made an appearance at the well respected Macau Grand Prix, where he finished in second, and only half a second behind the winner, Felix Rosenqvist.
Charles stepped up to the F1 support bill in 2016, winning the GP3 title on his maiden attempt and impressively winning his début race in the series. He followed the logical path in 2017 by moving to the Formula Two series with the Prema team. After setting pole on his first F2 appearance, Leclerc well and truly arrived in the series at the Sprint Race in Bahrain. He pitted from the lead on Lap 14 of 23, an unheard of strategy for a Sprint Race, which is usually lights to flag with no stops. Leclerc scythed through the field in the remaining nine laps as though he was playing a video game and the AI difficulty was set to ‘Super Easy’, setting lap times three seconds faster than anyone else on track. Charles did the impossible, clinching the lead of the race on the final lap and taking a well earned first series victory. From there, he went from strength to strength and set the fastest time in Qualifying for an unprecedented eight rounds in a row – doubly impressive and extremely tough to do considering F2 cars are all identical. Despite being excluded from the qualifying session at the Hungaroring for a technical infringement and starting from the back of the grid, he still fought through the field to finish fourth in the Feature Race.
While a disppointing race followed at his home event in Monaco, Charles showed tremendous strength at the next round as, just days after his father died, the Monegasque driver set the pole time by over half a second and would’ve taken a double win, if not for a somewhat unjust time penalty he received in the Sprint race which dropped him to the runner-up spot. Leclerc played an arguably calculated game in the latter stages of his championship bid. but he did enough to maintain a comfortable lead in the championship. He had taken a dominant win in Spa, but was excluded for excessive plank wear hours after the race finished. It was a similarly dominant performance in the Feature Race in Jerez which saw him seal the deal and become the first Formula Two champion of the modern era.
No rookie had won Formula One’s main support series since Nico Hulkenberg in 2009, and very few – not even the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg – have set the records which Charles has this season. Leclerc has the self belief, but lacks outright arrogance. He believes he’s good enough for the top tier of motor racing but, as his past teams have commented, wants to know how to improve even if a weekend runs perfectly. He is entirely focussed on pushing himself and getting better. He regularly works with psychologists from the Ferrari Driving Academy to better himself on track. All of these qualities are likely to see him go far in Formula One.
He chose his birthday, 16, as his race number after his first two choices – 7 and 10 – were already taken by competitors. He will be the first Monagasque driver in F1 since Olivier Beretta in 1994. We’ve seen exciting drivers come through the ranks before and had careers which amounted to very little in Formula One, but there is a real air of excitement around Leclerc, and there seems to be the belief that this is a driver who could define his generation.
CHARLES LECLERC’S F1 RECORD