As part of our build up for the 2019 Formula One world championship we will take a look at that drivers we think we have a big year with our first part looking at Ferrari’s latest recruit; Charles Leclerc.
Having only just one season under his belt Charles Leclerc is making the step up to the biggest name in Formula One; Ferrari. This in itself is a big testimony of Leclerc’s talent with the Prancing Horse typically choosing experienced, proven drivers rather than someone of Leclerc’s experience.
Leclerc made his debut with Alfa Romeo Sauber at the beginning of the 2018 following a dominant Formula 2 campaign where the Monegasque driver seven poles out of eleven races and seven wins on his way to the title.
Despite a wobbly couple of races at the start of the season where Leclerc admitted he was overdriving he had an outstanding season dominating his experienced teammate and scoring 39 points.
Leclerc’s breakthrough came in Azerbaijan where he kept a cool head in a dramatic race to finish 6th, Baku has been the scene of Leclerc at his best.
In his 2017 Formula 2 campaign Leclerc begun the Azerbaijan weekend coming to terms with the loss of his father who passed away earlier that week. The mental strain of such a tragedy would destroy many drivers but Leclerc was focused and put in his strongest weekend that season; taking a win in the feature race and finishing second in the sprint race and it was a performance which demonstrated Leclerc’s mental strength.
Mental strength is one of the biggest assets you need when stringing together a championship challenge especially when you’re a Ferrari driver. For much of the 2018 season the F1 paddock speculated about Leclerc’s Ferrari future which is enough to distract and put pressure on a driver but it had zero effect on Leclerc and almost never seemed to make a mistake or have a bad weekend.
Speed is also not a concern for Leclerc, from consistently scoring pole positions in Formula 2 to out-qualifying his teammate in Formula One 14-4 Leclerc has shown he has the outright speed required in Formula One.
Race-craft is also important and is again something that Leclerc has proven whether it’s racing and beating the master of racing Fernando Alonso or overtaking Kevin Magnussen one of F1’s hard defenders on the outside of turn 4 in Russia; Leclerc has proven he can fight cleanly on race day.
Without a doubt the pressure is on Leclerc in 2019, Ferrari have put a lot of faith in him replacing one-time Formula One champion and Ferrari’s last champion; Kimi Raikkonen. After two failed championship attempts for the scuderia it is key that Ferrari finally get it right in 2019 and a lot rides on Leclerc’s speed and consistency to do that.
Leclerc also has one of the toughest teammates on the grid; Sebastian Vettel. A four-time champion who has built Ferrari around him but with changes at the top of the team this poses as the perfect time for Leclerc to establish himself. Leclerc of course is already familiar with the team having been a Ferrari academy driver for many years but it will be crucial that he doesn’t let himself become a number two driver.
There is no expectation for Leclerc to win the championship in only his second season but from what we have seen from his rise through the junior categories and his debut Formula One season I see no reason to see why he can’t spring a surprise and contend for the title this season.
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