Written by SFCMelbourne Member, Michele Terminello
As we wait in anticipation for the upcoming 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship season, we take a look at the Scuderia’s new driver and talented youngster Charles Leclerc.
Leclerc was born in the Principality of Monaco on October 16, 1997. He has two brothers Lorenzo and Arthur. Leclerc was close to late godfather Jules Bianchi, who was a great mentor and friend to him. Like Bianchi, he was part of the ARM management company run by Nicolas Todt. Leclerc began racing karts at the age of five and was managed by Bianchi’s father in Brignoles. His late father Hervé was also a racer, driving in Formula 3 in the 1980’s and 90’s as well as being respected in karting.
In 2005, Leclerc’s karting career kicked off, winning the French PACA Championship in 2005, 2006 and 2008. In 2009, he became French Cadet Champion before progressing to KF3 in 2010 where he won the Junior Monaco Kart Cup. The Monegasque youngster stayed in KF3 in 2011 where took out the CFK-FIA KF3 World Cup, the CIK-FIA Karting Academy Trophy and the ERDF Junior Kart Masters. During that year, Leclerc also became a member of Nicolas Todt’s All Road Management Company.
Leclerc graduated to KF2 in 2012 and raced for the factory-backed ART Grand Prix team, winning the WSK Euro Series title, along with finishing runner up in the CIK-FIA European KF2 Championship and the CIK-FIA Under 18 World Karting Championship.
In his final year of karting in 2013, Leclerc clinched sixth position in the CIK-FIA European KZ Championship and ended runner up in the CIK-FIA World KZ Championship behind current Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen.
Leclerc moved up to single-seaters in 2014, racing in the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps Championship for British team Fortec Motorsport. During the season, he scored seven podiums including a double victory at Monza and finished a runner up in the championship behind Koiranen GP’s Nyck de Vries. Leclerc also won the Junior Championship at the final race of the season in Jerez and finished ahead of Russian Matevos Isaakayan.
Leclerc also took part in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Championship as guest driver for Fortec where he achieved three podiums, a second place at the Nürburgring followed by two second placed finishes at the Hungaroring.
In 2015, the Monegasque youngster graduated to the FIA Formula Three European Championship where he raced for Dutch outfit Van Amersfoort Racing and was best rookie in his debut season finishing fourth in the standings. November 2015 saw Leclerc enter the prestigious Macau Grand Prix where he claimed second place. In December, Leclerc took part in the post-season test with ART Grand Prix and Arden International.
In 2016, Leclerc became a member of Ferrari’s Driver Academy and signed for GP3 Series team ART Grand Prix clinching the title on debut and winning three races whilst participating as development driver for Haas F1 Team and Scuderia Ferrari.
The following year he was promoted to the FIA Formula Two World Championship to race for Italian outfit Prema Racing alongside fellow GP3 driver and Ferrari junior Antonio Fuoco. Mid-2017 was a difficult year for Leclerc when his father Hervé passed away after a long illness. Leclerc won the title in his first attempt taking seven victories and nine podiums. He also took part in some practice sessions as test driver for Sauber and one outing in the mid-season test at the Hungaroring with Ferrari driving the SF70H where he completed 98 laps and ended up quickest on the day.
In December 2017, it was announced that Leclerc would be debuting in Formula One and driving for the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team for the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship season. Leclerc scored 39 points for the Hinwil-based squad and finished 13th in the driver’s standings.
On September 11, 2018, Leclerc’s dream to become an official Ferrari driver came true for 2019, teaming with four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel and on a four-year deal, replacing 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen who moved to Sauber (now Alfa Romeo Racing). Leclerc made his first test day as an official Ferrari driver in the post-season test at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
What can 2019 bring for Leclerc in his debut season for the Scuderia?