[F1 2019 VIDEO FEATURE] CHARLES LECLERC: MONACO HOMECOMING

One year ago, Charles Leclerc was just a Formula 1 rookie, albeit with a fanfared entrance... following on from domination of the junior categories, taking the GP3 and Formula 2 titles back-to-back.

And his progress was assured with an easy target in his teammate, Swedish journeyman, Marcus Ericsson. And a resurgent squad in Sauber, with the Swiss privateers again on the rise. It was all there for the taking.

SOUNDBITE (English) CHARLES LECLERC,
F1 DRIVER 2018, SAUBER:
“I'm really excited to start my first season in Formula 1. Obviously, for any drivers that are coming into Formula 1 for their first year, it's always something quite new to everything before so I'm really looking forward to this year.”

And the Monégasque made an impact on arrival as the next big thing.

His confidence with the car kicked-in at Azerbaijan, where he scored his first points in F1. France was where he reached Q3 for the first time, one of eight top-10 starts that year… in a Sauber no less. 

Leclerc earned 39 points for the season at 10 of 21 races compared to Ericsson’s haul of nine. He also comprehensively outqualified him, 17-4, and 9-3 in races when they could be compared.

His promotion to Ferrari came just days before Singapore last year, with expectations skyrocketing ahead of his Scuderia debut.

SOUNDBITE (English) DAMON HILL,
1996 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“Outside bets for a championship, you’d have to say Charles Leclerc because the Ferrari is looking very good and he’s a very, very good driver, a newcomer to Ferrari. Could surprise us. I’d be surprised if he in his first season at Ferrari he did better than Sebastian Vettel, but it’s not impossible.”

And while Leclerc didn’t win on debut for Ferrari, he nearly did on his next attempt in Bahrain, until an engine cylinder failure dropped him from the lead to third place. His maiden F1 podium small consolation.

He’s since scored a trio of fifth places, including at the last event in Spain, where he finished behind Vettel for the fourth time in five races, despite being let through by the German on lap 12.

The 21-year-old now returns home to Monaco, where he’ll be lauded as a Ferrari driver at the most prestigious race in the world… and where he originally locked eyes with the Prancing Horse.

SOUNDBITE (English) CHARLES LECLERC,
F1 DRIVER, FERRARI:
“I’ve always looked at the red car hoping to be there one day. And it’s the realisation of a dream. So it’s amazing, and I will keep pushing forward to have the best result possible in the future.”

But while racing for Ferrari is an enormous honour, the pressure will be on Leclerc to reset mentally after Azerbaijan, where he crashed in qualifying, at Turn 8. The narrowest corner on the world championship.

… with the walls in Monaco almost as close.

It’s also another chance for a maiden win, if he can get pole position, which would be his second in the sport after Bahrain.

… and one that could turn the tide in his relationship with his 4-time F1 World Champion teammate, Sebastian Vettel.

SOUNDBITE (English) NICO ROSBERG,
2016 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“We can all look forward to watching that battle, it’s going onto be absolutely amazing I'm pretty sure and first of all, how does Ferrari manage it internally, they haven't had such a situation 11 years, when they last had Felipe [Massa] against Kimi [Räikkönen] and since then they have always had a number one and number two. Even before that, the last 10 years before that, so its just once in 20 years they have had this situation.”

There’s lots on the line as Leclerc heads to Monaco, with Ferrari.