Leclerc speaks to the media after his first day as an F1 driver. (James Pike photo)
MONTMELÓ, Spain – It is all a bit new for Sauber F1 Team’s Charles Leclerc.
Charles Leclerc had a first go as Sauber’s new Formula One driver during the first week of Formula One preseason testing in Barcelona. The Monegasque rookie was quite overwhelmed with everything the highest class of single-seater racing has to offer.
“The biggest change is that I am now working with so many people! You are not really used to that before Formula One,” he said. “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, he missed an extra day on the track, but was overall satisfied with his first take on his Ferrari-powered beast:
“It was a good day. Obviously, the conditions were not great. 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.”
His maiden voyage on-track was not 100% perfect though. He did spin once going through Turn 3, as he overdrove corner entry and lost control of the rear end of his car. Leclerc was honest in his assessment of the incident:
“I just pushed too much on entry and spun! That’s what testing is for. 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:
“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.
“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, he is both quite familiar with the circuit and excited to race there.
“You could say I know the circuit in Monaco pretty well. I know it better in my bus to go to school than in racing cars,” he said.
“I’m really, really looking forward to my home Grand Prix. 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.”