MOTOR RACING: FORMULA 1’S NEW RISING STAR

Published May 21, 2023
Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc

Charles Leclerc, the unflappable 21-year-old, is currently one of Formula 1’s most exciting and accomplished drivers. In the past few years, the young Monégasque driver has made considerable strides at Ferrari. His racing prowess suggests that he may one day soon win the world championship ... but Formula 1 is everything but straightforward. 

Leclerc began his Formula 1 career in karting, where he quickly established himself as a formidable opponent. By the age of 13, he had already won several titles in Monaco and France, proving his skill and desire to compete in the world of motor sports.

In 2014, Leclerc switched to single-seater racing, competing in the French Formula 4 Championship. He had a successful rookie season, finishing fourth overall, with two victories and six podium finishes. He proceeded to the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps championship the following year, where he won eight races and finished on the podium 11 times in 16 races.

Ferrari was intrigued by Leclerc’s achievements, and he was invited to join the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2016. For the young driver, it was a dream come true, as he would be supported and guided by one of the sport’s most prominent teams.

The young Monégasque driver Charles Leclerc is one of the most exciting prospects this season in motor racing’s premier event. Can he live up to his promise?

Those who are aware of Leclerc’s background will not be surprised by his maturity as a racing driver in Formula 1. During his Formula 2 career, Leclerc experienced a personal tragedy when his father, Herve, died of illness. This happened immediately before the championship’s fourth round, which was held in Azerbaijan.

He won both races after winning pole position, albeit his victory in the sprint race was short-lived, as he was demoted to second place owing to a yellow flag infraction. In an interview, he discussed how his father’s death affected his racing career, saying that it helped him develop a new perspective on the sport.

Leclerc made his Formula 1 debut in 2018 with the Sauber team. Despite driving for a team that was not expected to be competitive, Leclerc frequently outpaced his more experienced teammate, Marcus Ericsson, and astounded everyone with his speed and dependability.

With a sixth-place performance in his second race of the season, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, he rapidly established himself as a championship contender. The major teams took notice of Leclerc’s rookie season performance, and he was signed promptly by Ferrari to replace Kimi Raikkonen, who was leaving for Sauber. This was the fulfillment of a longtime goal for Leclerc: he would be racing for one of the sport’s most prestigious organisations.

Leclerc’s maiden year at Ferrari was not without its ups and downs. He had several outstanding performances, including pole position and a close second-place finish in the Bahrain Grand Prix, but he also had significant disappointments, including crashing out of the German Grand Prix and struggling to match the pace of his colleague Sebastian Vettel in other races.

Overall, he had a strong season. Despite these obstacles, Leclerc finished the season with two victories and seven podium finishes, moving him ahead of Vettel in the championship standings and cementing his position as the team’s rising star.

In 2020, Leclerc faced new challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which delayed the racing calendar and prompted teams to respond to new limitations. Because of Ferrari’s performance and reliability concerns, Leclerc and Vettel were forced to compete for points rather than podium spots. Vettel finished sixth, while Leclerc finished fourth.

Although Leclerc finished the season with two podiums and an eighth-place finish in the championship standings, it was clear that both he and Ferrari had a long way to go before returning to the top of the sport.

Few teenage Formula 1 drivers have the aptitude and potential of Charles Leclerc. Max Verstappen, the current world champion, has been a phenomenon since his debut in 2015. The unflappable Dutchman is an enormous talent behind the wheel, demonstrating an incredible ability to fight for triumphs and podiums while driving a vehicle that is not always the fastest.

Furthermore, he is quite combative, which can lead to blunders but also to entertaining racing. Since his controversial win in Abu Dhabi in 2021, his aggressive attitude to the sport has propelled him to the top of the Formula 1 driver standings. 

Lando Norris is another young driver making waves in Formula 1. Since making his McLaren debut in 2019, the British driver has quickly established himself as one of the most promising drivers on the grid. He has already won two podiums in the 2021 season and is known for his outstanding speed and ability to pass other drivers.

George Russell, the British driver who impressed everyone with his achievements in an uncompetitive Williams, is now super-competitive in the Mercedes with the experienced Lewis Hamilton. Norris and Russell are still young and have much to learn, but they have already demonstrated the ability to compete at the greatest level.

Saad Ali, a professional Pakistani racing driver who has proudly represented Pakistan on racing circuits all over the world, believes that, aside from a few personal mistakes, Ferrari’s inconsistency and lack of race pace have limited Leclerc’s success and prevented him from reaching his full potential. He is optimistic and believes that with Ferrari’s new team principal, Frederic Vasseur, in the paddocks, things will only get better for their star driver.

According to Ali’s experience, Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly are among the drivers who are currently struggling owing to the ever-changing Formula 1 regulations, as well as the fact that pre-season testing has been increasingly limited over the seasons. However, he considers Leclerc to be one of the most entertaining drivers this season, along with Verstappen, Fernando Alonso and Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez.

Driving a car that is evidently inferior to the Red Bulls and the surprisingly pacey Aston Martins this season, Leclerc has kicked off 2023 on the not-so-right foot. By already failing to finish three out of the five races this season, it is surely going to be a challenge for him to claw his way back up the driver standings.

As the season progresses, in the best interests of competitive racing, let’s hope that Leclerc’s star will continue to rise, and that he will remain a force to reckon with in the world of Formula 1.

The writer is a marketing and communications professional. He tweets @adaffan

Published in Dawn, EOS, May 21st, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Debt trap
30 May, 2024

Debt trap

PAKISTAN’S debt stock has grown exponentially in recent years. So have debt payments, putting pressure on the...
Foregone times
30 May, 2024

Foregone times

THE past, as they say, is a foreign country. It seems that the PML-N’s leadership has chosen to live there. Nawaz...
Margalla fires
30 May, 2024

Margalla fires

THE Margalla Hills — the sprawling 12,605-hectare national park — were once again engulfed in flames, with 15...
First steps
Updated 29 May, 2024

First steps

One hopes that this small change will pave the way for bigger things.
Rafah inferno
29 May, 2024

Rafah inferno

THE level of barbarity witnessed in Sunday’s Israeli air strike targeting a refugee camp in Rafah is shocking even...
On a whim
29 May, 2024

On a whim

THE sudden declaration of May 28 as a public holiday to observe Youm-i-Takbeer — the anniversary of Pakistan’s...