Every so often we get a talent that sweeps through the junior categories, picking up eyes and fans as they go along. They get the experts talking and excitement starts to brim over what they can possibly achieve in motorsport.
Currently across the junior categories, there is a fair pick of talented drivers. You have your Lando Norris' and George Russell's, but many are there still learning, still gaining, still growing. Now, that's not to say that you don't need to learn even while starting out in Formula 1, but one needs to have that edge and intuition that is picked up while targeting a drive in motorsport's pinnacle.
One such driver who is rightfully on the lips of many fans is Charles Leclerc. The Monegasque driver is a star of the future, that is something I am not doubting. Leclerc starting karting back in 2005, coming out victorious in the French PACA Championship in his maiden season, plus two more championships in 2006 and 2008.
He rose through the karting ranks, taking titles as he went, before making his debut in single seaters in 2014. Right from the get-go in the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps, it was clear that he was talented. 2015 saw him finish fourth in the FIA Formula 3 Championship, before going on to win the GP3 series last year.
That's all well and good, but it's really this year where Leclerc has begun to catch people's eyes. He is absolutely blitzing the championship, and is, in my opinion, the best driver to go through GP2/Formula 2 since Lewis Hamilton back in 2006.
As of the round at Great Britain, Leclerc has not been defeated in qualifying, leading every feature race away from pole position. A pretty amazing achievement and with every passing session, he looks better and better. One almost tunes into qualifying and expect to see Leclerc get that top spot.
|Race||Quali gap to P2||Quali gap to teammate|
It's worth remembering that Formula 2 cars are produced by Dallara, and its really up to the engineers and drivers to get the most out of the cars.The chassis is the GP2/11, which has been used in GP2/Formula 2 since 2011. All teams are delivered the same chassis, so there is more emphasis on driver input.
Leclerc's speed over one lap is clear and admirable. His crystal clear focus and intent in the race is shown through the 5 race wins he has picked up this year. Prema is leading the standings on 211 points, but if Leclerc was entering in his own, one-man team, he would be third trailing leaders DAMS by just 20 points.
Leclerc's impressiveness has shown through so much, that there are rumours linking him to a Ferrari seat in 2018. He is, of course, a Ferrari junior driver but stepping into a seat full-time would be a huge challenge.
It's not that that counts though. It's the fact that people who have been around motorsport for a long time are seriously suggesting he would be a good fit for the Scuderia outfit. The last time a driver drove his first race for Ferrari was back in 1970 when Swiss driver Clay Regazzoni entered the scene.
A Ferrari seat full-stop is hard to come by, especially when you're a rookie. Does he have a shot? I'm not sure, I don't have the full picture of the behind-the-scenes... One thing is for certain though, and that's the assurance that Ferrari know they have a platinum gem on their hands. They must keep a hold of him because he is definitely a wanted man.
A couple of months ago, Leclerc did a Facebook Q&A in which I asked the question: "What are your goals for the next two years?" His answer was: "Win the Formula 2 championship and take up a seat in Formula 1".
If those two boxes are not ticked before 2018 comes around, the world is officially mad.