charles leclerc: the next big thing?
Plenty of talented individuals are ready for an f1 seat (gasly, giovinazzi etc.) but is leclerc the best of the lot?
Everyone loves to ponder over who will be the next breakout star in the sport. Antonio Giovinazzi has already shown glimpses of talent at the Australian Grand Prix this year, and there seems to be a consensus that Pierre Gasly is ready to take on a berth at Toro Rosso. Our very own Samuel Sage did a fantastic piece on a few future F1 stars that you can read here.
However, I think that the future could well belong to young Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc. Here's a look at his career so far.
2005-13: early promise
From an early age it was apparent that Leclerc had talent in abundance. Starting his karting career in 2005, Leclerc impressively won the French PACA Championship three times in four years. Then in 2009 he became the youngest person ever to become French Cadet champion
Following this early success, Leclerc advanced to KF3 where he won a number of titles, including the Monaco Kart Cup. His rapid progress continued as he moved up to KF2 in 2012 where he won its Euro Series with 232 points, no one else even reached three figures.
2014-15: Formula renault 2.0 alps series and formula 3 championship
In 2014, Leclerc finished second in the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps Series behind Nyck de Vries. Throughout the season he picked up 7 podium positions and was the highest placed rookie in the series at just 16 years old.
Formula 3 was the next challenge for Leclerc and he once again showed himself to be a promising talent as he finished fourth despite being up against more experienced individuals. 4 wins and 13 podiums from 33 races no doubt proves his consistency over a longer period of time.
His overall points tally of 363.5 was a remarkable effort, to put this in to context his two teammates Arjun Maini and Alessio Lorandi collectively only obtained 53 points, and the nearest rookie to him was Lance Stroll who accumulated 231.
To date, winning the 2016 GP3 series has to be considered Leclerc's finest achievement. Racing for ART, he won 3 races on the season which was actually fewer than second place Alex Albon, but Leclerc's consistency throughout the year proved his greatest asset as he claimed the championship by 25 points.
2016 also gave Leclerc his first taste of F1 as he participated in four practice sessions in the year for Haas. It's said that team boss Guenther Steiner was impressed by Leclerc's efforts and for a while there was speculation that they may give him a seat for 2017, however Haas eventually ruled this out and he moved onto Formula 2 (GP2) instead.
2017: Formula 2
The season is still in an early stage, however Leclerc has already won a couple of races and finds himself at the top of the championship standings. However, he has seen his championship lead diminish after retiring from both of his home races in Monaco.
His win in Bahrain caught the eye of many as he produced an almighty charge through the field to take the chequered flag. He was in just 14th after a pitstop on lap 14. The next 10 laps saw him overtake 13 drivers in a breathtaking display of guts and skill.
Up to this point, there aren't many that will argue how impressive Charles Leclerc has been in his rise through the ranks. Across the series he's competed in between 2014 and 2017, he has amassed 841.5 points, if you take the best teammate he's had in every year their points only add up to 224. This incredible statistic as well as performances such as the one in Bahrain have to put F1 teams on notice.
Leclerc is currently in a decent position as he is part of the Ferrari Driver Academy and already has some level of experience in F1 thanks to the practice sessions he took part in last year for Haas.
The question is where he might be able to find a seat for 2018, Haas seemed a likely destination after the practice sessions, but it's very recently been confirmed that another Ferrari junior Giovinazzi will do a few sessions for them this year, perhaps implying he will be looking at a seat for next year.
The next possible destination is Sauber, however they've announced that they will be switching from Ferrari engines to Honda engines meaning any partnership between them may well dissolve.
Regardless of where he finds himself, cream does eventually rise to the top and I would not be at all surprised if he's fighting for championships in 3 or 4 years time.