MONTMELÓ, Spain – Since arriving at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the start of Formula 1 preseason testing, things have all a been bit new for Sauber F1 Team’s Charles Leclerc.
Leclerc, 20, had his first go as Sauber’s new Formula One driver during the second day of F1 on-track activity in Barcelona on Tuesday. The Monegasque rookie landed 10th among the 11 drivers who hit the track during the day and was, self-admittedly, quite overwhelmed with everything that the highest class of single-seater racing has to offer.
“The biggest change for me is that I am now working with so many people! You are not really used to that before Formula One,” said Leclerc. “The media attention is also quite more compared to Formula Two … and I was not really used to that.”
Leclerc is one of three new drivers on the 2018 grid, but his arrival may be the most anticipated. He dominated the 2017 Formula Two season en route to the drivers’ championship, winning seven races and mathematically clinching the title with three races remaining.
Due to unusually cold weather in Barcelona, Leclerc missed an extra day on the track when snow and cold conditions rendered Wednesday’s sessions a virtual write-off, but he was overall satisfied with his first laps in the Ferrari-powered Sauber entry.
“It was a good day. Obviously, the conditions were not great,” admitted Leclerc. “It was very, very cold and the track was very, very slippery, but it was a good day for me. I got a bit more experience in Formula One … so this is always good.”
Leclerc’s maiden voyage on-track was not perfect, however. He did spin once going through turn three, overdriving on corner entry and losing control of the rear end of his car.
Afterwards, he was honest in his assessment of the incident.
“I just pushed too much on entry and spun! That’s what testing is for,” Leclerc smiled. “I’m pushing to try to feel the limit a little bit and I went over it that time, but thankfully there was no damage.”
The Ferrari Driving Academy product may be as prepared as any driver entering Formula One could be, but the transition into the top category of motorsport has still come with some changes. Leclerc admitted he is still adjusting to them.
“Working with so many people in Formula One is something that is a big change for a driver. There is a person for every little detail of the car and it takes a bit of time to acclimate to that … but it’s getting better.”
Even through all the adjustments, Leclerc is realistic in his expectations for the year.
“(My goal is to) just try to do the best job possible in the car rather than in terms of results. It’s always difficult to have targets at the beginning of the season, because you don’t really know where you are compared to others, especially in winter testing. It’s not always representative.”
For him, doing the best job possible means avoiding comparisons with other drivers, including his Sauber teammate Marcus Ericsson.
“Obviously, he is the only one who has the same car as me, so it’s always important to be strong. But this doesn’t have to be an obsession,” Leclerc said of Ericsson.
“I think I really need to focus on the teamwork point of view, and I think this is how we will go forward. Obviously, if I can beat him, I will be happy, but he doesn’t have to be an obsession.”
On the horizon in May will be the Monaco Grand Prix, and as a native of the Principality, Leclerc is both quite familiar with the circuit and excited to race there.
“You could say I know the circuit in Monaco pretty well,” Leclerc laughed. “I know it better in my bus to go to school than in racing cars!”
“I’m really, really looking forward to my home Grand Prix, though. It’s going to be something very special, obviously, as it was last year for my first-ever home Grand Prix in Formula Two. My first-ever home Grand Prix in Formula One will definitely be something special.”
About the Writer
James Pike is a multi-faceted reporter for Race Chaser Online and an analyst on the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Pike is a graduate of the Motorsports Management program at Belmont Abbey College and is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C., having grown up in the shadow of the legendary Bowman-Gray Stadium.
He is the founding correspondent for Race Chaser Online’s coverage of Australian Supercars, and he is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in International Sports Journalism overseas at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, England.
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