We all have our favourite Formula 1 teams and drivers. But there tend to be a couple of Formula 1 teams that transcend the rules of your own team. Sort of like supporting a fantastically skilled footballer who's playing for your country in the world cup, but hating him in season because he plays for competing team (can you tell I don't support or play soccer/football at all?).
Those teams are Mercedes and Ferrari. I say this because whilst maybe 4 years ago I wasn't a fan of either or any of their drivers, in the years since I find myself supporting a driver or two here and there. I've titled this article ground hog day because we're starting yet another year in Barcelona, Spain with the same attitude again. Who will it be? Ferrari or Mercedes? Last year I grew a bit of a soft spot for Lewis Hamilton. Sure he does something idiotic or annoying every now (like have Juston Bieber celebrate his Monaco GP win as his guest of honor - I mean aren't they 15 years apart in age?) and then but by en-large he means well. He's sort of the Bono of the grid.
I won't continue with that metaphor though, it was sort of explain my likening of Hamilton. But 2019 is a different story, it is oh so different. Because whilst Valterri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton are all fantastic candidates for the everybody-loves-you award, there's a new kid on the block. And I think you may find (bar Daniel Ricciardo who ultimately hasn't been given a fair go) he is the ultimate Formula 1 driver. I love this kid so much I could almost wear a Ferrari Guernsey.
Charles Leclerc has arrived, and I feel like he represents everything Maranello want to stand for. He's the outlier, a Monagasque (by all standards one of the smallest countries on earth) and ridiculously skilled. He sat in the Alfa Romeo seat for only one year before attending his own graduation to one of the best seats in Formula 1. A seat he bet Daniel Ricciardo to, someone most pinned as Italy's golden son returning to take back his righteous throne.
Most who know me would normally think I'm bonkers for saying I prefer Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari seat over Daniel Ricciardo. But I actually do. Daniel has always sort of been the outsider, he doesn't come from privilege and he's had to work hard to get to where he is. If Renault come out swinging and give him a car that ultimately wins the championship it becomes so much more fitting that he wears the crown. Charles Leclerc however is somewhat racing royalty.
I mean whilst yes he's an outlier, he's sort of like the prodigal son as well. A child who grew up on Formula 1 in Monaco from a very young age. His family was also extremely close with the late Jules Bianchi, a man who Charles later revealed was his godfather. Leclerc's father also owned a go kart track and raced Formula 3 in his hey-day. So it very much seems that Leclerc has oil running through his veins.
His race results also reflect his historical connections to motor racing. Having first won a GP3 World Championship and the following year busting out of the start line and winning a Formula 2 Championship. Not just that but his first year with Alfa Romeo was astounding. Taking a team who in the first two races last year looked as if they might flail in the wind as the younger brother of Ferrari to being a consistent top ten finisher (when a DNF didn't occur). Charles even found himself in 6th and 7th place multiple times in 2019. Something his team member Marcus Ericsson never achieved in any of his three Formula 1 seasons. In fact Ericsson finished in the top ten eleven times during his Formula 1 career. Charles Leclerc finished in the top ten, ten times in his first season. Something I hail as sensational.
Now bar all of that, which makes Leclerc both a sensational driver and Ferrari's secret weapon, he's also a fantastic brand ambassador and last year was the youngest driver in Formula 1 (he's one month younger than Max Verstappen). If anyone here has also read previous blogs here at Drivetribe or even F1FanVoice, you probably know I'm not much of a Max Verstappen fan. In fact I'd go as far as to say I quite dislike Verstappen's attitude towards Formula 1, a sport which in most instances is considered a gentleman's sport and is treated as such by the majority of it's previous ambassadors. Leclerc though has that composure. If he wins this years Championship he will also have bet Max Verstappen to becoming the youngest Formula 1 World Champion in history. Now if Ricciardo stealing his youngest pole sitting in history last year wasn't enough, imagine having the next big milestone snatched from you (I bet Ferrari chose Leclerc purposely for that exact reason). I bet that'll leave Helmut Marko and Christian Horner scratching their heads and trying to figure out how to ditch Verstappen's contract.
Leclerc's composure though may just lead him to a Formula 1 championship this year. Something that I'm sure will impress and make all Formula 1 supporters jeer and celebrate. Not just because he's deserving for a crown, but because the sport deserves someone like Charles Leclerc in the top spot. Leclerc definitely fits that description of a driver that transcend's team allegiances, well for any fan who isn't Dutch anyway.