With the new Formula One season just weeks away, here at Sport Grill, we have spoken to Sauber’s new rookie driver, Charles Leclerc.
Sit back and enjoy as Charles discusses his inspirational heroes, racing mindset and his success of recent years as he prepares for life in F1.
Who or what inspired you to become a racing driver?
Leclerc: “Coming from Monaco, I have been surrounded by Formula One since a young age. My father was a racing driver, who made it all the way to Formula 3000, and even tested in F1.
Naturally he raised me to have a racing spirit.
Another great inspiration was my friend, Jules Bianchi. We raced each other at his father’s karting track as children and I learned a lot from him, as he was a few years older and had more experience than I did. He was always someone I looked up to very much.”
Your karting career brought plenty of success with two French PACA Championships being notable highlights amongst many other achievements. Which moment of your karting career benefitted you the most as a driver when you made the move to single seater racing?
Leclerc: “The Mindset you have while racing – be that in a kart or single seater- is quite similar so there are many skills that you can take with you to Formula racing.
The best moment of my karting career was probably the World Cup that I won in 2011. I had three strong teammates whom I could learn a lot from. I developed the confidence that enabled me to advance in various series later in my career.”
You made a successful start to your single seater career with second in 2014 Formula Renault 2.0 but 2015 saw you face your biggest test. Challenging for the F3 title, a collision with Lance Stroll effectively finished your title challenge so how tough did you find that experience and has that benefitted you since because you have been so dominant over past two years?
Leclerc: ” The 2015 Formula 3 season was probably one of the toughest so far. We had some tricky moments during the season, but this taught me a lot about mental strength and being persistent, even when times are hard.”
The past two seasons brought two consecutive championships in your rookie seasons of GP3 then F2. How surprised were you at clinching those titles in your first season at those levels particularly against the likes of Antonio Fuocco (GP3 in 16 then teammate at Prema in F2), Oliver Rowland and Artem Markelov?
Leclerc: “It was great to win the championship in GP3 and Formula Two. However my target was never to be ahead of certain competitors, but rather to win the championship.
Fortunately, we could achieve that in two very competitive series, so that was a great accomplishment. “
Now that you’re a full time F1 driver and with some experience from FP1 appearances in past couple of seasons for Haas and Sauber. How excited are you about this season with the midfield looking like it could be too close to call and will the FP1 experience be a big help?
Leclerc: “My focus will be on my own performance and development as a driver and that is what I will concentrate on this season.
I will do the best possible job and work hard to improve our car as much as we can throughout the season. We will see, what the results of our work will be.”
With the media talking about a possible seat at Ferrari next year being available – should Kimi Raikkonen fail to deliver enough for a new contract, will that provide you with additional motivation to go and deliver each race with Sauber?
Leclerc: “I always focus on delivering the maximum during each season. At the end of the season, we will see which opportunities I have and go from there.
For now, my goal is to have a good F1 debut and to do a good job in 2018.
Finally, what are your hopes and ambitions for the future, now that you have reached F1?
Leclerc: “For 2018, my goal is to do the best possible job, feel comfortable with all of the new procedures and learn how Formula One teams operate.
My ultimate dream of course would be to become world champion one day. There is a long way to go until then and a lot of work to do, so I am taking it step by step and enjoying every moment of my journey.”
Here at Sport Grill, we would like to thank Charles for taking time out from his busy schedule to participate in this interview.
We must also thank Sauber F1 and their media team for their assistance in giving us this interview.