Best of ’22: Crown Prince’s Mask

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He is the Crown Prince of Ferrari and hails from the Principality of Monaco. He has the appearance of a movie star. He is a model for Armani and is known for his calm and caring nature. But who is Charles Leclerc really? Look behind the Monegask mask, at the solid figure underneath. “In the gigs it was him or me. We hated each other then.”

Written by Luis Vasconcelos

If you do not know and meet Charles Leclerc for the first time, you would be forgiven for thinking that the young man standing before you is a calm, relaxed lad who accepts everything in life with a certain grace – so obliging, in fact, that he is not quite Pushy / arrogant It will be if things don’t turn out the way he wants. However, you might be partly wrong, because beneath Leclerc’s calm exterior lies a strong and powerful personality.

The young Ferrari star is a fighter you rarely see. A man who had to overcome an unprecedented ordeal. He endured a painful personal loss without turning his back on the sport he loved so much. who against all odds became a potential world champion.

Also read: Leclerc counts on three fights in 2023: ‘There are no indications that the fourth team will report them’

Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) after finishing qualifying before the Monaco F1 Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 28, 2022 in Monte Carlo. Photo: ANP

Leclerc grew up in Monaco, but – contrary to what you might think – does not come from a wealthy family. No, it’s part of a caste, and outsiders often forget about it Sweetened– Families who have lived in Monaco for a long time and work for the millionaires who give the tax haven its status. Leclerc’s father, Hervé, was a motorsports fanatic who had made it to French Formula 3 before facing a bitter truth: he didn’t have the money to advance. So Hervey shared his passion for motorsports with his three sons, and put Charles – his middle son – in a buggy when he was six.

fate
Thanks to the support of the Bianchi family, friends of the Leclercs, little Charles could start karting in France, and then in the rest of Europe. Along the way, they meet families Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon almost every week. They become friends, and though mistakes happen between Gasly and Ocon during the karting years, Leclerc stays close With both Frenchmen, just as with Antoine Hubert. However, destiny is never far away in motorsport and Leclerc is introduced to it at a young age. He was just seventeen when his friend and mentor Jules Bianchi died in 2015 from injuries sustained in a horror crash at the Japanese Grand Prix a year earlier.

Besides the fact that the two have known each other since childhood, Bianchi plays a major role in young Leclerc’s life before his death. Jules was the first to hire Nicholas Todd (Director, Editor) Then I later convinced Ferrari to give me a chance,” says Leclerc, who eventually made it to Formula 1 through the Ferrari Driver Academy. However, his first visit to the Scuderia base in Maranello comes years earlier, following in Bianchi’s footsteps. “The first time I was in Maranello, I rode with Jules from Nice. He went to the factory and I had to stay in the car, but I’ll never forget that day.”

Charles Leclerc in action during his home race in Monaco. Photo: Getty Images

After Bianchi’s death, Leclerc can count on all possible support from Todt on his way to Formula 1. But before he reaches that final destination, he has to endure an even greater loss. Her father, Hervé, passed away in 2017, while he was just 54 years old. Less than a week later, Leclerc was back behind the wheel and showed his determination and character by winning the Formula 2 main race in Baku and working his way through the treacherous streets to second place in the sprint race. It is one of his seven tournament victories which he wins fairly easily. His first Formula 1 victory came just two years later, again after tragedy. The day after Leclerc’s childhood friend Hubert crashed at Spa-Francorchamps, he triumphed on the Belgian track unforgivable after a long battle with Lewis Hamilton.

Also Read: Leclerc has ‘mixed feelings’ about 2022: ‘Good season, but frustrating’

Battle of France
Hamilton, who consciously does not want to be too close to his teammates on a personal level but had frequent clashes with Max Verstappen last year, has nothing but good to say about Leclerc. “He’s still very young, but he’s already shown a lot. He’s going his own way, but he’s clearly going to get better and get better and better.” Leclerc was still good friends with Gasly and I’ll be clear when French drivers – unexpectedly – won races, with Gasly doing it at Monza in 2020 and Ocon in Hungary a year later. Either way, Leclerc retired early, but remains on track even after the flag has fallen and is one of the first to congratulate the recent winners.

That Okon and Gasly are still held in high esteem comes as no surprise. “We’ve known each other since 2005,” Gasly recalls. “We grew up together and our families would even go on vacation together. I’m two years older, so I moved into motorsports two years ago, but we always close stayed. Despite our busy schedules, we now also see each other outside of the races. I think he was just as happy for me when I won as I am for him when he wins. Although of course I’d rather win myself, haha! “

Ocon has been friends with Leclerc even longer – he is only a year older than Monegasque. “So whenever he entered a class as a newcomer to cartoon cars, I was already in my sophomore year. I usually competed for the title, while the best rookie used to be. Although Charles was talented enough to compete against us title contenders in some races.” The first time their paths crossed in chariots, it didn’t end well. “We fought for the French championship. As Northern France class champion, he was Southern France champion. Charles was leading going into the last corner and I tried to pass him but he locked the door and we crashed. Antoine, who rode a few meters behind us, took the title. I could kill Charles, but what I remember most is that we and our parents were all crying while Antoine was on stage! “

“unknown”
Leclerc also learns that things can go wild in gigs when he starts working internationally and gets to know Max Verstappen. Their relationship during those karting years, with a sense of understatement, is far from good. The two now admit that they hated each other back then, and clashed both literally and figuratively on a regular basis. The most famous incident is of course the infamous “incident” (or accidental(as Leclerc calls it in his oft-watched YouTube video of the aftermath) in 2012 during the WSK races at Val d’Argenton.

in the last the heat Leclerc gives Verstappen a small tap, causing the Dutchman to slide off the racing line and Leclerc to take over the lead. After a corner, Verstappen struck back and slammed it off the track, sending Leclerc falling wide. Verstappen wins, but is pushed off the track on his lap of honor by Leclerc’s furious gestures, into a thick puddle. Both are disqualified and the final sprint must start from the field.

Ask Leclerc about that day and he says that “in the gigs it was really him or me”. “We hated each other then. Often times it doesn’t end well when we bump into each other.” Meanwhile, now fighting for the title in Formula 1, Verstappen and Leclerc are now on good terms with each other. “In karting we just wanted to win. We were young and took things differently, often got angry. No doubt I hated him as much as he hated me, but we’re older and more mature now. We respect each other and we’ve fulfilled our dream of getting to Formula 1.”

Title tension
What Leclerc doesn’t want to rule out in the meantime is that things could get tough again if the pressure builds up in the title fight. “There’s a lot of mutual respect, and it’s nice to see. But if there’s only five races left and we’re this close to a championship, there’s bound to be more tension. That’s what racing is like, and that’s why I love this sport so much.” Verstappen agrees, also enjoying the tit-for-tat battle for the time being. “It’s only natural for me to compete now in Formula 1 against the guys I fought with in karts. Especially Charles, anyway. It’s good to see two guys like us fighting for victories and they’ve already had some great duels.”

“I think we grew up together since we were 12 years old,” Verstappen continues, “we raced against each other a lot in karting and found our way to Formula 1. That goes for many guys of our generation,” Verstappen also refers to the aforementioned Gasly and Ocon, But equally to George Russell and McLaren driver, Lando Norris, “It’s particularly remarkable that we’ve come to the end of the top teams still being able to battle each other. Hopefully that will be the case for a long time to come.”

As Leclerc himself points out, the tension will increase in the event of a prolonged title fight, especially if it is only decided in the last race(s). Then it will probably be again Wheel ding, we see a repeat of the blistering combat from earlier this year – and from the go-kart era. What won’t change, however, is Leclerc’s personality: in the car he’s a lion, a ruthless, ruthless predator. There, as soon as he calms down, he becomes a meek, quiet and quiet boy. The perfect sign for Ferrari and Monaco: the heir apparent of noble and proper class.

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