Charles Leclerc heads to Singapore as Ferrari’s hero, the Monégasque doing what its four-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel could not… claim victory this year - in Belgium, his first, in tragic circumstances..
…and then in front of 200,000 people, he made it back to back wins - at the sport’s Temple of Speed, Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix. The Scuderia’s home race.
… where Vettel fell apart - another rookie mistake - spinning at Ascari on Lap 6, and hitting Racing Point’s Lance Stroll as he unsafely rejoined the track. For which he earned a 10-second stop-go penalty…
Leclerc - on the other hand - has shown steel under pressure. Monza the ultimate example with both Mercedes breathing down his neck to the flag.
And the Prancing Horse’s great and good lined up in the days before the race to praise him for his talent and potential.
SOUNDBITE (Italian) JEAN ALESI,
F1 DRIVER, 1989-2001:
“[Charles] Leclerc is already a great champion. I'm glad he managed to win his first Grand Prix, because he had the chance earlier in the season, but was unlucky - and would have won in Bahrain but for a technical problem.”
Leclerc is certainly a multiple champion of the junior categories… having proven an irrepressible young gun on his way to the top.
Leclerc finished fourth in European Formula 3 in 2015, before winning the GP3 and F2 titles back-to-back as part of the Ferrari Driver Academy. His eight poles in a single FIA F2 season a record.
Incredibly, the Monégasque only joined F1 last year - with Sauber - but on a wave of hype and success, the media already then asking him when he would get the call up to join Ferrari.
But he soon proved all that talk was deserved.
Across 2018, the team punched above its weight, with Leclerc a standout, beating teammate Marcus Ericsson 17-4 in qualifying and 6-3 in the races when they could be compared. He also scored 30 more points.
His reward, a promotion to the Prancing Horse, alongside Vettel, who the Scuderia wanted to reinvigorate after four comfortable seasons with Kimi Räikkönen. But Leclerc has again shown his colours…
In the 14 races run, Leclerc has outqualified Vettel 8-6 - including the last seven-straight, but is 6-8 in races with the young gun on two DNFs. He is 13-points ahead after two-straight wins.
And while he’s made mistakes like his crash during qualifying in Baku, it’s still just his second year in the sport - his first in a top team.
…compared to Vettel, a four-time F1 World Champion - who seems to be suffering a serious crisis of confidence. Monza his latest setback.
SOUNDBITE (English) ALAIN PROST,
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“We all have this kind of situation, especially when you're a world champion. And that is something you need to expect when you have a long career like him. But, he's a four-time world champion and he's the only person who can analyse why it's a little bit like this.”
And at the start of the season, Leclerc was happy to learn from teammate Vettel, the pair ferociously competitive - but fair.
SOUNDBITE (English) CHARLES LECLERC,
F1 DRIVER, FERRARI:
“It's good. We found the right compromise, obviously we want to beat each other, which is absolutely normal. We are also working extremely close together to try and improve the car. I think it's a good relationship for now.”
But, Leclerc is starting to take the Prancing Horse’s reins - like in Monza where he allegedly didn’t want to stick to the qualifying plan.
The games are set to continue as the battle intensifies at Ferrari - and a young Monégasque cements his place as Scuderia team leader.