In any case, many expect exactly that from Ferrari’s crown prince with the angel face. Because Leclerc is not just any young driver. Just like Max Verstappen, he has been traded for years as the next golden boy, in Italy as a savior who should bring Ferrari back to where they belong according to their own teaching: to the top.
Leclerc now challenges Verstappen on the world title mission. A duel that is not new. The two had already dueled in karting. A legendary scene from 2012, when the Monegasque pushed the Dutchman off the track and Verstappen, who was in puberty at the time, complained bitterly about the unfair driving style of his rival on the kart track. But Leclerc countered coolly: “It was just a racing accident.” The way he pronounces the word “incident” (namely incident) has now become a dictum in the scene.
But that’s just a side note. Leclerc has always impressed with a special performance. In 2013 he became vice world champion in karting behind Verstappen, in 2016 he won the GP3 title and was included in the Ferrari junior squad. Since then, he has been racing in the fast lane – and has not let himself be slowed down even by severe strokes of fate.
Because unlike Verstappen, who was steered by his father Jos through all the chicanes through the junior classes to the World Cup crown, Leclerc lost his father when things got really serious in his son’s career. The week before the 2017 Azerbaijan GP, Hervé Leclerc died unexpectedly at the age of 58. Nevertheless, Charles traveled to Baku, won both Formula 2 races and later won the championship.
And the big stumbling block in Sebastian Vettel’s career. Because when Leclerc became Vettel’s teammate in 2019, he didn’t stop out of sheer awe. On the contrary. With his raw speed, his innocent demeanor and the political power of those around him, he ended the Heppenheimer’s Ferrari career.
However, the internal team rivalry never escalated into a hate duel. Perhaps also because Vettel saw himself more in the role of teacher than in that of a bitter competitor. Leclerc still raves about his ex-teammate’s “analytical approach” and praises: “In this regard, I learned a lot from Seb.”
Vettel attached great importance to small details, “and that made a big difference on the track in the end. It was very interesting for me to observe that.” In addition, Vettel is “a very good person”. Leclerc: “I was impressed by his modesty.”
The young Monegasse has not only grown as a driver but also as a person on his quick way to the top. But he also knows: Now it’s up to him again. The first world title is always the hardest, they say. But at Ferrari they believe in Charles.
“I think he’s ready,” says Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto. “But that’s what I expected. When we extended his contract to 2024 last year, we did it because we know he can fight for the title. He has the talent and is an incredibly good racing driver.”
In the 2022 season he can prove it at the highest level for the first time.