After a solid debut season in 2018, Charles LeClerc was rewarded with a Ferrari race seat. Now, the Monegasque driver has been the centre of attention, now that he is in the scarlet overalls. The good news is, he has taken the challenge in his stride and not buckled under pressure.
Any other driver would have cracked at the prospect of driving for a team of Ferrari’s calibre and partnering a four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel. However, Charles LeClerc is still proving his mettle in spite of Ferrari made it explicitly clear that Vettel was the top priority.
Ferrari’s ‘Number 1-Number 2’ tactics was witnessed during the opening few races of 2019. This was when they employed team orders to ask Charles LeClerc to move over for Vettel. However, Leclerc stated his intention of not kowtowing before the German, if he was faster.
The 21-year old ignored the team in Bahrain and he was in a prime position to win his first race. Sadly, the loss of a cylinder culminated in him being forced to settled for 3rd.
Speaking to BBC Sport about team orders, Charles LeClerc said: “There were a few races where it was reasonable and then others like in Bahrain when I thought it was better not to respect them because in the car I felt I had more information than they had on the pit wall. That’s how I felt it.
“I felt like I had a significant pace advantage, I was coming quite quickly and I felt it reasonable to overtake.
“In the end, I understand they are trying to do the best job for the team and I completely understand.
“It can be very frustrating from the car sometimes but it is all about staying calm and then the mental work I have done since the beginning of my career helps.”
Bahrain was not the only race that witnessed a ‘so close but yet so far’ moment for Charles Leclerc. Austria was another example, where he was leading before Max Verstappen dive-bombed and overtook him. The Red Bull driver planted a hefty whack for good measure and forced him off the track.
However, he banished that disappointment with another titanic battle with Verstappen. While he got the better of the Dutchman on outright pace, he lost the pit lane war. Now, the young Ferrari man is relishing the potential beginning of a fierce rivalry.
“I really hope so,” he mused. “We had some very good fights in karting that didn’t always end in a good manner, but it was fun, good times.
“And I can’t wait to have more with him. In the end, we have done most of our career together, so it is fun to find ourselves again here in Formula 1.”
“In the future… my dream as a child was being a World Champion. Now I am finally in a team where I think this can be a reality so we need to keep working and hopefully this will happen one day.”