The Bahrain Grand Prix Winner: Here’s How Charles Leclerc Became An F1 Star

With numerous championships under his belt, Charles Leclerc graduated to Formula One with a tidal wave of expectations. He was peerless on his way to GP3 and Formula 2 championships where he showcased his dazzling array of talents and skills from taking the pole positions to commanding victories. When he entered F1 in 2018, he showed everyone his flashes of ballistic pace and his racing brilliance. Take a look at how his career started and how he worked his way up to Formula 1.

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Karting Career

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Charles Leclerc started his career in karting and gradually worked his way up until he reached F1. He began karting in 2005 and immediately won the French PACA Championship that same year. He also won the title in 2006 and 2008. He went on to become the French Cadet Champion before he moved to the KF3 class in 2010 where he immediately won the Junior Monaco Kart Cup. He continued the KF3 Class until 2011 where he won the the CIK-FIA Karting Academy Trophy, the CIK-FIA KF3 World Cup and the ERDF Junior Kart Masters. That same year, he also became a member of the All Road Management company of Nicolas Todt. He moved on to graduate to the KF2 category the following year with the support of the ART Grand Prix team where he won the WSK Euro Series title and finished as a runner-up at the CIK-FIA European KF2 Championship. His final year in karting was in 2013 where he went to win the South Garda Winter Cup and even claimed the 6th placed at the CIK-FIA European KZ Championship.

The following year, Leclerc graduated to single-seaters racing Formula Renault 2.0 where he represented the British team Fortec Motorsports in 2014. That season, he took about seven podium positions including his double victory at the Monza and finishing as a runner up behind Koiranen GP’s Nyck de Vries at the championship. At the final race of the season, he won the Junior Championship title at Jerez where he bested Russian teenager Matevos Isaakyan. He also took part in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 season as a guest driver with Fortec. Out of six races, he finished on the podium three times and took the second place at the Nürburgring.

Formula 3 and Formula 2 Championship

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He moved on to start racing for the Formula Three in 2015 entering the FIA Formula 3 European Championship with the Dutch team Van Amersfoort Racing. During the opening round of the season, he inherited the pole position for the 2nd and 3rd races of that weekend after the original pole sitter Felix Rosenqvist was excluded due to the technical infringement issues. He then took his first race victory at the 3rd race of the weekend. He then took his 2nd victory the following round when he won the third race at the Hockenheim. At this point, he was already making a name for his name and a lot of F1 fans are anticipating him.

After numerous titles won at the Formula Three, it was announced that he will be graduating to the Formula 2 after his victory at the GP3 title race. He entered the 2017 season with Prema Racing of Formula 2 with Ferrari junior and fellow GP3 racer Antonio Fuoco. He finally made his debut at the Bahrain race where he took the pole position for feature race however he only finished third. In the sprint race, his team chose to take the mid race pit stop which is deemed uncommon for the shorter sprint races. He had to push harder on his Pirelli tyres which created a nine-second lead before the pitting. He took the victory upon overtaking Luca Ghiotto at the final lap. He went on to join and win numerous races after his victory taking the pole position. At his fourth race as the pole sitter held at the Azerbaijan, he dedicated his game to his late father Herve. The game was converted into another win for him and although the race was red-flagged five laps before its scheduled end.

Formula One Career with Haas, Sauber and Ferrari

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Before entering Formula One, he was a test driver for Haas in 2016. He joined the Ferrari Driver Academy and acted as the development driver for the Haas F1 team and the Scuderia Ferrari. Part of his role as the development driver was to participate at the first practice session of British and German Grand Prix driving for the Haas team. It was assumed that if he won the GP3 Series championship, he will be following Valtteri Bottas and Daniil Kvyat direct from the GP3 into the F1 with the Haas. However it was not the case as he test drive for the Sauber team at the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2017.

He started racing for the Sauber team at the Chinese Grand Prix in 2018. He signed with the Sauber F1 team as the race driver for the Formula One World Championship in 2018. He replaced Pascal Wehrlein and partnered with Marcus Ericsson. This was his first appearance as Monégasque Formula One driver which did not happen since the last appearance of Olivier Beretta in 1994. Things might be going great for him unfortunately, at his first home race in the Formula One, he suffered brake failure at the closing laps which resulted in his vehicle colliding into the back of the car of Brendon Hartley which forced both of their cars to retire.

He moved on to a different team the following year when he signed with Scuderia Ferrari for the Chinese Grand Prix in 2019. He replaced the World Champion Kimi Räikkönen who then took his place at Sauber and is now called the Alfa Romeo team. Initially it was announced that he will only take part for Ferrari for 2019 however it was clarified by then-Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene that his contract would be going for about four seasons which indicates that he will be driving for Ferrari until 2022. He is currently representing the Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow with Carlos Sainz Jr for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

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Sources: Formula 1, Charles Leclerc, Spotrac

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