Charles Leclerc, driver for the Ferrari team, has suffered one setback after another, but the Monegasque has still not lost confidence in the Italian racing team. He has so far failed to win a title for Ferrari for the first time in a long time, but nevertheless Leclerc remains loyal to the team and continues to fight for success.
Leclerc has almost completed his fourth season at Ferrari, but there has been little success so far. The long-awaited world title still seems to be far out of reach and during the 2023 season it even seemed that the devil on his shoulder is actively in control. The accident that the Monegasque has had to endure this season can no longer be counted on one hand, so it would not be surprising that Leclerc’s self-confidence would also take a major blow.
Ferrari has a special place in Leclerc’s heart
Yet the Monegasque proves the opposite in conversation with ESPN. “You feel so much passion within this team that you feel that responsibility,” the Monegasque begins about his duties at the Italian racing team. ‘But I don’t feel pressured at all. As a person I don’t experience much pressure anyway, I just enjoy what I do and try to make the best of it with a good load of passion and dedication. Hopefully I will become world champion as soon as possible.’
In 2022 it looked like it would finally happen, but Max Verstappen took over the lead after a few races after Leclerc and Ferrari lost valuable points after a number of stupid mistakes. In 2023, the Italian racing team will be in even worse shape, and so just about everyone is wondering whether Leclerc’s future lies elsewhere. Yet the Monegasque responds firmly: “I don’t even think about it, because Ferrari is so special that I wouldn’t give up my position for anything.”
According to the Monegasque, there is nothing as special as a place at Ferrari, and he says he would give up a lot for that. ‘Of course I want to win that drivers’ title, that goes for everyone. But do I want to trade this spot with someone? No definitely not.’ Clear language from Leclerc, although his statements do not come out of the blue. He has been involved with the team for a long time, after joining the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2016. “I have always dreamed of a career as a Formula 1 driver,” Leclerc begins, “but a place at Ferrari was the main goal. It feels very much like a family, now that I have been involved with the team for so long, regardless of whether I played a role in Formula 1 or was still at the Ferrari Driver Academy.’
Things are going well, but things have to be even better for Ferrari
After all these years, Leclerc has only one goal: “We have now been so many years further and I want to complete that mission with a title.” In 2023, the Italian racing team was preparing to make a serious bid for the world title, but with the dominance of Red Bull Racing and the disappointing car, that opportunity quickly seemed to have disappeared. However, the Monegasque does notice improvements here and there. ‘We are taking steps in the right direction, especially during the second half of the season. Since the summer break we have been doing very well and we understand the car better and better, and that is especially positive for future development.’
Yet Leclerc is also realistic enough to realize that this season has never been able to bear the desired fruit. ‘That improvement is positive, but on the other hand it is true that we really had a disappointing season. Last year we came second in the championship for both titles, but this year we failed to achieve our goal and take those titles.’ It is clear that Ferrari had a completely different goal in mind, according to the Monegasque. “That is of course not what we are fighting for at the moment, because Max (Verstappen, ed.) and Red Bull ultimately won.”
Nevertheless, the Italian racing team saw the competition make impressive progress, and they are happy to follow suit. ‘This year we saw two teams,’ Leclerc begins, ‘that managed to take big steps forward. Aston Martin did that at the beginning of the year, and McLaren recently started doing so. This gives us the confidence that these big steps are possible, but we still have to understand where our problems come from.’ The Monegasque suspects that Ferrari is not always in the dark, although this can only be determined when the improvement becomes visible on the track. “I think we understand it, but until we see the improvement on the track it’s difficult to predict.”
Leclerc knows that personal improvement is not the only factor that plays a role. ‘It’s all relative in this sport, and you’re always fighting against other cars. So you really depend on what they think, because if Red Bull manages to find something again, they will be better again next year.’ Yet Leclerc firmly emphasizes that he has confidence in the chosen direction that Ferrari will take from next season. “I personally have a lot of confidence in it, at least in terms of development, and I’m sure it will pay off last year.”
What does the future look like for Leclerc and Ferrari?
However, the end of Leclerc’s contract is getting closer, and so it is important that he and the team discuss the state of affairs during the winter break. However, given the circumstances, an extension of the contract seems almost certain, and that also has to do with Leclerc’s special role within the team. ‘I have always dreamed of a career as a Formula 1 driver, especially to do so at Ferrari.’
However, that does not seem to be the only factor that plays a role. ‘Someone also told me yesterday that I have been involved with Ferrari for a quarter of my life, so it has become a big part of my life. I know a lot of people on the team and I understand how much it means to them to work there, and how much it will mean to them to win again.” Leclerc cannot help but agree that, after all this time as part of the Ferrari family, he has developed a similar passion for the team. “I’m sure I feel exactly the same because I want to win another race as soon as possible.”