In the right place, at the right time
Born in Monaco, Charles was surrounded by the world of Formula 1 from a young age. When asked about the source of his passion for racing, Charles recounts a fond memory of his first encounter with the sport. “I must have been four years old. My family and I spent an afternoon with friends during Monaco Grand Prix. We sat on their terrace, which was located just above the exit of turn 1, Sainte Dévote. My friend and I played with toy cars and listened to the sound of the Formula 1 engines howling. You have certain memories of your childhood – like milestones – which are deeply engraved in your memory. This is one of my first and most vivid ones.”
Born to be wild
Like any other four year old, Charles woke up one morning having decided that he did not want to attend pre-school that day. He told his father that he was feeling ill, and accompanied him to a social meeting with his father’s best friend, Philippe Bianchi. As chance would have it, the meeting took place at Bianchi’s karting track, not far from Charles’ family home.
Little time passed that morning before Charles jumped into one of the karts and completed his first lap, attached to Philippe Bianchi’s kart with a rope. After just one lap, the rope was removed, and Charles spent the rest of the day speeding away.
“It must have been during one of the first ten times that I sat in a kart,” Charles explains, that the funniest incident occurred. “I was about four years old and had already learned how to start the kart up by myself. My father and I arrived at the track, and I just climbed into my kart and drove off. My father stood at the side of the track waving his arms frantically and shouting my name, but I did not understand why and kept on driving. After completing several laps I finally stopped. It turns out that I wasn’t wearing a helmet. That’s how oblivious I was to the rest of the world, even as a child, as soon as I had the chance to drive. Nothing else mattered.”
The real deal
Soon after his first exploratory karting excursions, it became clear that racing was more than just an after-school activity for Charles. “From the day that I actually started competing against others, I was there to win. I wasn’t going about it like I was going to play tennis on a Sunday.”
Charles’ ambition and passion are what enabled him to win various karting categories (2005-2013), and advance to single-seater racing in 2014. He finished his first two seasons (2014 and 2015) as Rookie champion, with his overall results being the 2nd place in the 2014 Formula Renault 2.0 Championship, and the 4th place in the 2015 FIA Formula 3 European Championship. In 2016, Leclerc became the GP3 Series Champion.
Most recently, the young Monégasque driver became Formula 2 Champion (2017) – so far ahead of his competitors in terms of points, that his victory was clear even before the last race of the season had taken place.
An important role-model and companion on his journey to the top, whom Charles speaks very fondly of, was Jules Bianchi. A family friend and fellow racer, Jules is often credited by Charles as being a major influence and someone who he looked up to very much. “I spent most of my life racing Jules. We spent almost every free weekend at his father’s track. I haven’t raced a single person as often as I have raced him, and I think that it will not be possible to ever break that record.”
In 2014, Jules Bianchi was involved in a tragic accident while racing in the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix. At the young age of 19, Charles was confronted with a second tragic loss, namely that of his father Hervé Leclerc in 2017.
“It is quite strange that in my professional career, I have had the best year of my life in 2017, while it has been a tough year for me personally,” he explains. “I have had to grow up very quickly due to both the nature of my profession as well as personal circumstances. I think that the biggest achievement in terms of my performance so far has been my pole position in the Baku GP qualifying last year (2017), just days after my father passed away. I went into the weekend without any expectations, but at the same time, knew that I had to make my father proud. Racing for him, in his memory, gave me strength. I owe everything to my father and Jules, and I dedicate each race and each victory to them.”
As a Ferrari junior driver, Charles especially looks forward to experiencing the power of the 2018 spec Ferrari engines in the upcoming season as part of the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team. “Having the 2018 engines in place will be a big boost for the team. The newly formed partnership with Alfa Romeo is also exciting news.”
He continues, “I am thankful for all of the support I have received from Ferrari. The support I have been receiving from fans all over the world, especially over the past year, has also been overwhelming. I look forward to my first season in Formula 1 and will do my best to make everyone proud.”
Charles will make his Formula 1 debut as a full-time race driver for the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team in the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. His car will be marked with the number 16.
F1 stats prior to the 2018 season
|Best race result||–|
|Date/place of birth||16th October 1997 in Monte Carlo, Monaco|
|Height / weight||1.80 m / 67 kg|
|Hobbies||Racing, tennis, travelling|
|Favourite drink||Apple juice|
|Favourite music||“Where Is The Love?” by The Black Eyed Peas|
|Languages||English, French, Italian|
|2017||FIA Formula 2, Champion|
|2016||GP3 Series, Champion|
|2015||FIA Formula 3 European Championship, 4th (1st Rookie)|
|2014||Formula Renault 2.0, Vice-Champion (1st Rookie)|
|2013||Karting KZ1, Winter Cup Winner
CIK-FIA World Cup Vice-Champion
|2012||Karting KF2, WSK Euro Series
Champion: CIK-FIA European Championship
Vice-Champion: CIK-FIA U18 Championship Vice-Champion
|2011||Karting KF3, CIK-FIA Trophee Academy Champion
CIK-FIA World Cup Champion
|2010||Karting KF3, Monaco Kart Cup Winner (youngest in history)
France Vice-Champion (youngest in history)
|2009||Karting Cadet, France Champion (youngest in history)|
|2005-2008||Karting France, PACA Champion (2005, 2006, 2008)|