He may be a rookie on the 2018 grid, but Charles Leclerc’s single-seater credentials are impressive. GP3 champion in 2016; F2 champion in 2017; Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) member; F1 testing experience with Ferrari; and F1 practice outings with both Haas and Sauber.
Born on October 16, 1997, Leclerc is barely into his twenties, so it’s fair to say he looks to be firmly on the fast track to success. Hailing from Monaco, he was inevitably exposed to F1 at a young age, especially as his late father Herve was also a racing driver, who did well in F3 back in the Nineties.
On top of that his best friend since childhood was the late Jules Bianchi, also an FDA member, and it was at the kart track belonging to Jules’ father Philippe that Leclerc first got behind the wheel, when he wasn’t even five years old.
He made the step up to single-seaters in 2014 with a campaign in the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps series. Success came quickly, with two wins in his first year as well as three podiums from six outings in the more competitive Formula Renault 2.0 Euro series.
For 2015, promotion to the FIA F3 Euro championship resulted in four victories and fourth place overall, and he also impressed with a second-place finish in the prestigious Macau Grand Prix.
His rise continued apace in 2016, when he became an FDA member and got his first taste of F1 machinery – a day’s testing at Silverstone with Ferrari and no less than four FP1 practice sessions with Haas. More importantly, he carried on winning – three times en route to the GP3 title in his rookie season.
And he couldn’t break the habit in 2017, when he triumphed seven times to secure the F2 crown in dominant style at his first attempt. There were further F1 tests with the Scuderia, and another four Friday practice outings, this time with the Ferrari-powered Sauber team.
With Sauber strengthening their ties to Ferrari with an Alfa Romeo title sponsorship deal for 2018, Leclerc won his first F1 race seat, driving alongside seasoned Swede Marcus Ericsson.