Leclerc inspired by friendship with Jules Bianchi

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari Driver Academy
© XPB 

While only still 19 years old, Ferrari junior Charles Leclerc is only too aware of the dangers involved in his chosen profession.

A childhood friend in his native Monaco was Jules Bianchi, who played a key role in inspiring him to become a racing driver. Leclerc had his first taste of racing at a karting track owned by Jules’ father Philippe.

“I had told my father that I wasn’t feeling well so I could skip school," he told the official Formula 1 website. "Then I went to the kart track in Brignoles with Jules!

"When I got home I declared that when I was older I would be a racing driver."

Leclerc has followed in Bianchi's footsteps ever since, all the way into the Ferrari Driver Academy. He says that it would be a dream to break into F1.

He added that the tragic accident that claimed Jules' life in 2014 while driving for Manor wouldn't scare him off his love of racing.

"Fear? No, that doesn’t exist," he stated bluntly. "Even after Jules’ accident in Suzuka, I never had the slightest doubt about my future.

"I know that danger is part of racing. But when I’m in the cockpit, all I feel is the adrenalin rush," he insisted. "I have never driven even a single metre afraid that something could happen."

The reigning GP3 champion is certainly well down the path of achieving his dream. He is currently runaway leader in the inaugural Formula 2 championship.

He also enjoyed a successful outing with Ferrari at the in-season test at the Hungaroring at the start of the month.

But this year has also seen the loss of his beloved father Hervé, himself a former F3 racer. He died in June aged just 54 having made a deep impression on Charles and his brothers Lorenzo and Arthur.

"He would always talk to me about Senna," Leclerc said. "I grew up imbued in that legend and he was my hero.

"I watched [Senna's] Monaco qualifying laps so often. Seeing him drive on the streets I would walk along every day," he added.

"Taking pole, driving the perfect lap: that’s really the best and it gives you an incredible thrill."

Ironically, the Monaco round of this year's F2 season is the only weekend Leclerc has failed to score points. Elsewhere he's won five of the seven feature races in 2017. He's started from pole in six races, including Baku just three days after his father's death.

Given that the principality of Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, it's produced a disproportionate number of racing drivers.

“We real Monegasques, we pretty much all know one another. It’s nice to grow up in that sort of environment,” Leclerc explained.

“Seen from the outside, maybe people think that one lives constantly in the limelight in Monaco. But it’s not actually the case. In fact, in winter, the city can be a bit dull.

"But there’s no other place in the world where Formula 1 is so much a part of the life of the town."

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