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F1: Charles Leclerc's rise through junior years

The Monaco driver is seen as the star of the future in F1
The Monaco driver is seen as the star of the future in F1
rehaan díaz
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The youngest Ferrari hire in years, Charles Leclerc, began his carting career in 2005 and rose through the KF3 and KF2 ranks until his ninth and final year in 2013, when he was runner-up in the FIA World KZ Championship, behind Max Verstappen. He entered single seaters in the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps championship for British team Fortec Motorsports in 2014.

During that season, he also raced in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 season as a guest driver. He comes from a driving pedigree, with his late father Hervé Leclerc having also raced in Formula 3 in the 1980s and 1990s. He was a respected name in the karting circles, and his sons Charles and Arthur are now following in his footsteps.

Leclerc's rise to a drive in a top constructor like Ferrari has been relatively quick with him testing for Haas and Sauber in just his third year in single-seater racing cars. Here's how he rose through his junior Formula years to the high-profile seat at the 'Prancing Horse'.


Formula 3 European Championship | 2015

Charles Leclerc after winning a race in Norisring and scoring another podium
Charles Leclerc after winning a race in Norisring and scoring another podium

At only 17, Leclerc graduated to the Formula 3 European Championship in 2015 with Dutch team Van Amersfoort Racing. With a Volkswagen engine powering his car, he won in Silverstone, Hockenheim, Spa-Francorchamps and Nuremberg which saw him take the lead in the championship.

His crash with Lance Stroll at Zandvoort proved to be decisive as he never recovered from the damage to his car's chassis. He finished fourth, behind champion Felix Rosenquist, Antonio Giovinazzi, and Jake Dennis. Despite the setback, his talent was noted by scouts and experts in general.

He quite notably won the rookie championship, beating George Russell, Lance Stroll and Alexander Albon by quite a margin, and incidentally, all of the them will be on the Formula 1 grid in 2019.

GP 3 Series | 2016

Leclerc exults after scoring a pole at Spielberg, Red Bull Ring
Leclerc exults after scoring a pole at Spielberg, Red Bull Ring

The performances in Formula 3 were rewarded with a jump to the GP 3 series with a seat in the Asia Team Racing (ART) founded by Frédéric Vasseur and Nicolas Todt. Todt has taken Leclerc in his management fold and has been instrumental in getting his protégé driver with the drives to showcase his potential.

Leclerc won the 2016 drivers' title after the first race in the final round in Abu Dhabi. He edged out Alexander Albon to the championship. En route, he won at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Red Bull Ring, and Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, while nabbing four pole positions during the season.

Other notable ART drivers from the recent past who have moved on to Formula 1 include Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Valtteri Bottas, Nico Hülkenberg, Romain Grosjean, Esteban Ocon and Stoffel Vandoorne. The Monégasque stepped up to the opportunity and was quickly deemed as the star of the future.

Formula 2 | 2017

Leclerc finished head and shoulders above the rest in Formula 2
Leclerc finished head and shoulders above the rest in Formula 2

Charles Leclerc was joined by fellow Ferrari Driver Academy member Antonio Fuoco to drive for Prema Racing in 2017. Leclerc dominated the season and secured the drivers' championship with three races to go, with Artem Markelov second and Oliver Rowland finishing third.

He was on pole 8 times and won 7 races, winning the title with a massive 72-point gap. He impressed with his race craft and composure. In 2017, he was also the test driver for Sauber and Ferrari, with a drive in 2018 almost confirmed given his superlative season in which he left rival drivers in his wake. He was the rookie of the year when he debuted in Formula 1 with Sauber, unsurprisingly.

Prema didn't win the constructor's title, which was decided in the final race, with Russian Time winning by 15 points. To win a championship with such a margin when the team didn't manage the constructors' championship also pointed to Leclerc's talent and speed, which Ferrari has invested in.

Edited by Sai Krishna

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