In an F1 season that has developing drama at every turn, one young driver has shown his true ability, in turn making a dream a potential reality. Though Max Verstappen has been F1’s ‘enfant terrible’ for several years now, the name of Charles Leclerc could now be appearing on many a podium from next year.
Though the 20-year-old Leclerc was (appropriately) born in the racing hotspot that is Monte Carlo, it has been a long slog for him, with no special privileges of note – just raw talent. While storming to the chequered flag at the Monaco Grand Prix remains a distant ambition, an imminent move to Ferrari for Leclerc has served to propel that glorious day ever closer to Leclerc’s reality.
Despite being in what is probably the second worst car on the grid this season, Leclerc has (prior to the British Grand Prix) more points than six of his competitors, finishing in the points on five occasions.
Results from Charles Leclerc’s first nine races under Sauber.
Great power: Great Pressure
While every driver blessed with Leclerc’s ability has the right to dream, the latest F1 betting markets for this season illustrate just how much Sauber is likely to hold him back in the short term, with Leclerc’s outright price still in the thousands. Yet, like other racing prodigies in their rookie seasons, Leclerc already has a defining moment to his name.
That moment came in the Canadian Grand Prix, where he managed to hold off former champion Fernando Alonso to keep his place. Finishing sixth, at what is still a relatively unknown street circuit in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, is also a result of which he should be extremely proud.
Whether or not he moves to Ferrari, 2019 will not be easy for Leclerc. As he will find out inside the livery of a respected constructor, there is a lot more to Formula 1 than just being a good driver. All it would take is one error on the track for the knives to come out, justifying the inevitable doubts about whether or not it really is Leclerc’s time to step up so drastically.
Räikkönen replacement vital to Ferrari’s future
In the past, Sebastian Vettel has made basic errors under the pressure of being a Ferrari driver. For Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton has occasionally found it difficult to arrest personal setbacks, while the now-retired Nico Rosberg lost his composure when under the microscope, to the extent that he felt compelled to retire after winning the title in 2016.
Even the other boy wonder, Max Verstappen, has gone through periods of bad form and scrutiny this year. Nonetheless, watching Charles Leclerc in a Ferrari will make for great viewing if it happens. With Kimi Räikkönen long since a spent force, and an increasingly unhelpful secondary driver, the sight of two motivated Ferrari drivers will be one to behold.
Ultimately, Leclerc’s performances in a poor Sauber have been exceptional. The man from Monaco has proven that he has the talent, and all that is left to prove is his mental toughness – and only the very best constructors can bring that out in him.