The Monaco Grand Prix is a special race for all Formula 1 drivers. But on a day when a who’s who of the world’s top racing talent will duke it out for this year’s plaudits, it must surely mean just a little more to the young man from Monaco. A man who has grown up seeing Monte Carlo’s famous streets closed off to the public each year and heard the roar of F1 engines on roads he travels each day. Charles Leclerc has grown up among the crowd in Monaco, and this year he will embody them on the track. Only one question remains - can he do it? Can he win?
Who is Charles Leclerc?
Those with only a passing interest in motorsport may not yet be familiar with 21-year-old Leclerc. Although, with a full season in the division behind him and a reputation as one of the sport’s hottest prospects, this may be about to change. Leclerc enjoyed an impressive debut season with Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team in 2018. He became only the second Monégasque to score points in Formula One, and the first since 1950. The points came courtesy of a sixth-placed finish in Azerbaijan, after which other F1 teams started to sit up and take notice of his talent.
In fact, such is the potential of Leclerc that in September 2018, Scuderia Ferrari announced it would be hiring him to replace Kimi Räikkönen for the 2019 season. And as those who are familiar with Ferrari know, the racing behemoth rarely puts its unequivocal trust in relatively untested youngsters. So far this season, Leclerc has rewarded Ferrari’s faith. He currently sits fifth in the standings on 47 points, and achieved his first poll position qualification in the Bahrain Grand Prix. Were it not for his engine dropping a cylinder, it is likely he would have won the race instead of eventually coming in third.
In 2018, Charles Leclerc made no secret of the fact that he was racing in honour of his friend and mentor, the late French racing driver Jules Bianchi. This will only serve as further motivation for Leclerc to secure a hometown victory at the end of the month.
Despite an unfortunate crash during qualification in Azerbaijan this year, Leclerc has finished no lower than fifth so far this season. Around the upcoming race in Monaco there is a sense of a driver whose skills are maturing and whose form is developing. Combine this with a hometown advantage and there is just a hint of destiny surrounding the events that will unfold at the end of May. Can Charles Leclerc do it? The fans in Monaco certainly believe he can.