Driver Profile: Charles Leclerc

NameCharles Marc Hervé Perceval Leclerc
Date of Birth16 October 1997
Place of BirthMonte Carlo, Monaco
Car Number16
First Entry2018 Australian Grand Prix
First Win2019 Belgian Grand Prix

Biography of F1 driver Charles Leclerc

Leclerc’s karting career began in 2005, winning the French PACA Championship in 2006, 2006 and 2008 before becoming French Cadet champion the following year.

Honours followed in the KF3 class from there before graduating to KF2 in 2012 with the factory-backed ART Grand Prix. After winning the WSK Euro Series title, Leclerc won the South Garda Winter Cup during his final karting season in 2013.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc during testing REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Leclerc graduates to single-seaters

Leclerc moved to open-wheel racing in 2014, competing in the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps championship for Fortec Motorsports. He ended the season as runner-up behind champion Nyck de Vries while also claiming the Junior Championship.

He took the step up to Formula 3 in 2015 racing for Van Amersfoort Racing, finishing the season fourth in the standings. Leclerc joined ART the following campaign, claiming three victories en route to the title.

His stellar performance earned up a move to Formula 2 with Prema Racing where he claimed pole at his debut race in Bahrain, though he could only manage a third-place finish.

Leclerc’s performance set the tone for the remainder of the season, as he ended the campaign with eight pole positions along with seven wins to claim the championship in impressive fashion. He became the youngest ever champion of the main support series for F1 at 19 years 356 days old.

Leclerc makes the move to F1

Leclerc got his first taste of the F1 world when he served as a development driver for Haas and Ferrari after joining the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2016.

After taking part in a handful of practice and test sessions, he was handed a seat at Sauber for the 2018 F1 season, where he drove alongside Pascal Wehrlein.

He became the second Monegasque driver to score points in F1 after Louis Chiron thanks to a sixth-place finish at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and ended the season in 13th in the championship with 39 points.

Ferrari give Leclerc a shot

Leclerc’s performances with Sauber were enough for Ferrari, who signed him to replace the departing Kimi Raikkonen – who took his place at Sauber (now Ferrari).

It only took the Monegasque driver two races to score his first podium, finishing third in Bahrain, and he added to that with a run of four straight podium finishes in Canada, France, Austria and Britain.

The best was yet to come however, as Leclerc scored his third pole position in Belgium, with teammate Sebastian Vettel making it an all-Ferrari front row. Despite Lewis Hamilton’s best efforts to deny him victory, Leclerc took the chequered flag to become the youngest Ferrari race winner. The victory was all the more important to Leclerc, as he dedicated it to former competitor Anthoine Hubert, who was killed during the Formula 2 feature race the previous day at the same circuit.

Leclerc’s stock soared even higher at the Italian Grand Prix as he won from pole position in front of the Ferrari Tifosi, the first Scuderia driver to do so since Fernando Alonso in 2010.

Vettel denied him a third straight win in Singapore, though Leclerc ended the season ahead of the four-time World Champion in the standings. He ended the year with two wins, four fastest laps, 10 podiums and seven pole positions, making him the first non-Mercedes driver to win the Pole Position Award.

Ferrari struggles slow Leclerc down

Although Leclerc finished second at the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix in 2020, Ferrari’s lack of pace prevented the team from challenging for top honours.

As a result Leclerc only scored one more podium the rest of the season, a third-place finish in Britain, while also failing to register a pole position.

A run of seven straight races in the points ended when Leclerc retired at the Sakhir Grand Prix, though he didn’t fare much better at the final race of the season, a 13th place finish. In the end Leclerc ended the year in eighth with 98 points, while Ferrari finished the year sixth in the Constructors’ Championship – their worst showing since 1980.

The struggles at Ferrari saw the team replace Vettel with Carlos Sainz, who joined from McLaren. Although the Scuderia were once again unable to mount a title challenge, their fortunes did improve.

Leclerc registered back-to-back pole positions in Monaco and Azerbaijan, though he failed to start the former after crashing in the final part of qualifying. Ferrari opted not to change the gearbox, and unfortunately for Leclerc, he suffered a driveshaft issue on the way to the grid.

His best finish of the season came at the British Grand Prix when he came home second behind Lewis Hamilton. In the end, Leclerc had to settle for seventh in the standings, while Sainz, who scored four podiums, finished fifth. It marked the first time Leclerc had been beaten in the standings by a teammate in his racing career.