The Meteoric Rise Of Charles Leclerc
Upon crossing the line to take victory in yesterdays Italian Grand Prix Charles Leclerc well and truly stamped his authority on the pinnacle of Formula One. Young, determined and focused, Leclerc's rise to the top is one of determination, tragedy and unwavering commitment.
At just 21 years old it’s easy to forget just how new to Formula One Leclerc is. Having made his debut with Alfa Romeo just last season, Ferrari made the rare and bold choice to thrust him into the works team alongside 4 times world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Promoting rookie drivers went against the established status quo for Ferrari as traditionally the Scuderia prefered to run a dedicated team leader alongside a de facto number two driver. For recent seasons this infamous position was held by Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen. Despite his relative inexperience, Leclerc was catching the right eyes within the Ferrari camp.
Notable of those watchful eyes were those of Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne. Impressed by Leclerc's stellar record in both the Formula One feeder series’ and his impressive start to his Alfa Romeo Formula One career led Marchionne to strongly consider him for the second Ferrari Formula One seat this season.
Unfortunately, fate was to deal a devasting blow as Sergio Marchionne sadly passed away shortly after the 2018 German Grand Prix weekend. With plans for a successor within Ferrari put into action, the famous Scuderia intended to honour the wishes of its late CEO and duly completed a deal which saw Leclerc join Ferrari alongside Sebastian Vettel.
Charles Leclerc’s rise to the top of Formula One with Ferrari comes off the back off numerous championship successes across a number of categories and racing disciplines.
Born in Monaco on the 16th October 1997, the Monegasque driver was exposed to Motorsport from his early years as his father Hervé raced Formula 3 machinery in the 1980s and 1990s after a stint in Karting. It was this motorsport exposure at a young age that would prove to be the catalyst to follow in his father's footsteps.
In 2005 Charles’ racing career started in earnest and from the off young Leclerc quickly began to make a name for himself. French PACA Championship titles would fall his way in 2005, 2006 and 2008 before going on to become French Cadet champion in 2009.
Clearly a deft touch behind the wheel, Leclerc was on a rapid ascent to single-seaters and in 2014 he found himself racing in the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps championship where he would go on to finish the season in 2nd place in the championship standings.
2014 would prove to be a pivotal year for Leclerc as he started to hone his single-seater craft. However, 2014 would also prove to be a year of tragedy after he lost life long friend and godfather, Jules Bianchi after a devasting accident in the Japanese Grand Prix.
A tragic reminder of the perils of motorsport, Leclerc continued his ascent up the single-seater ladder, where in 2016, he found himself a driver at the ART Grand Prix GP3 team. Now onto the final steps before Formula One, Leclerc would drive a measured and committed campaign in 2016 which would see him clinch three victories on the way to the GP3 championship.
Now a star of the future Leclerc found himself with a seat in the FIA Formula 2 Championship. A season that saw another championship title, Charles also found himself behind the wheel of a Formula One car on a number of occasions throughout the season with the Sauber and Haas teams as his move to Formula One edged ever closer.
Leclerc's 2017 campaign would, unfortunately, be dealt another tragic turn as on the eve of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend, Leclerc would lose his father after a short illness. He was 54. Racing on in devasting circumstances Charles bravely fought on and emotionally won the Azerbaijan Formula 2 feature race. Leclerc’s season would feature another four victories thereafter with drives at Silverstone being a particular career highlight.
Now well established, the next logical step was Formula One. Joining the Alfa Romeo F1 team allowed Leclerc to keep hold of his Ferrari ties whilst continuing to learn as a driver. Come the end of 2018 it is clear that Leclerc had the measure of his teammate, Marcus Ericsson, as he consistently outscored and outraced his Swedish counterpart. A Ferrari works seat was the reward.
2019 has proved to be another successful chapter in the meteoric rise of Charles Leclerc. The points table alone doesn't reflect just how good his debut season at the Scuderia has been as victories at the Bahrain, Azerbaijan and Austrian Grand Prix’s arguably should have gone his way.
Despite missing out on having 5 victories to his name already, young Leclerc has started to establish himself as the de facto number one driver at Ferrari and a legend in the eyes of the passionate Ferrari faithful, the Tifosi.
Whilst it may be too late to launch an all-out championship assault in 2019, the future looks very bright indeed for Charles Leclerc. A future where a world title undoubtedly awaits.