Charles Leclerc, Sauber’s 20-year-old star is driving at the Circuit Paul Ricard with a hope of doing well not just for himself but also for the memories of his close friend and F1 mentor, Jules Bianchi.
Bianchi, a former Ferrari academy driver himself, suffered a horrific crash at Suzuka in 2014 and was in a coma, from which he did not recover eventually. His father, Phillipe had a go-karting track close to the scene of the F1 circuit.
As kids, Leclerc and Bianchi would race on that track, so Phillipe Bianchi regards Leclerc as his own kid. He was visibly proud of the youngster racing in F1 at a track so close to home.
“It’s a beautiful thing to see Charles racing. I wanted the same for Jules and now every time someone speaks about Charles, they remember Jules because they were so close”, Phillipe said.
“The return of the French GP is a beautiful thing. For Charles, it is good to have another type of home race. He is from Monaco, but the French is very similar to him”, he added.
The emotional father also detailed out how close the two were back in the day. “Charles tells me that every time he has problems and pressure, he speaks to Jules, because he was like a big brother for Charles.”
“He will do what Jules used to say, that when you start the race you push, you push and you see at the end of the race where you are. And that’s a good strategy”, he poured out.
The similarity between the two close friends’ careers is not lost on Phillipe. Leclerc is being tipped to replace Raikkonen at Ferrari from 2019, just as Bianchi was before the tragic accident. But he warned him to be cautious.
“Of course, he can race for Ferrari. It will be difficult for Charles to drive for Ferrari next year, but when you got there you have a lot of pressure. Perhaps he needs one more year at Sauber.”
“After that Ferrari may take Charles. When your clothes are red, it’s not easy”, he joked.
This revelation was amazing to say the least and Leclerc seemed to have benefited from the memories, putting in a career-best qualifying performance at his second home race. He will be looking to honour his friend with a strong finish tomorrow too.