Leclerc not spending much time thinking about 'stardom'

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF90. 14.04.2019.
© XPB 

Charles Leclerc insists that he still doesn't see himself as a 'star' despite his promotion over the winter to the Ferrari Formula 1 team.

The 21-year-old from Monaco had previously been GP3 champion in 2016 before clinching the Formula 2 title the following season. That put him on the F1 grid with Sauber in 2018, where he became one of the most talked-about drivers of the season.

Having been fast-tracked into a race seat at Maranello, Leclerc insisted that he wasn't letting his meteoric rise to one of the top spots in global motorsport go to his head.

“I have never thought about it,” he said this week. "I don’t spend too much time thinking about it.

"[I'm] just trying to get better every race and focus on the weaknesses on my side from the last Grand Prix, trying to fix them and get better for the next one.”

Leclerc has been publicly lauded by reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton and tipped to be the sport's next global superstar,. Which is nice, he admits modestly.

“This is very nice to hear," he said. “It’s always very nice to hear compliments from Lewis.

“We will see how it goes but I don’t think you can really prepare for it," he added. "If it happens then it’s a good time for me, and means I am doing a good job in the car. But we will see."

In his first three races with Ferrari, Leclerc has already proved to be a match for his vastly more experienced team mate Sebastian Vettel. He came close to securing his maiden F1 race win in Bahrain before suffering engine issues.

In last weekend's Chinese Grand Prix he was once again in front of Vettel, only for the team to order him to let the four-time world champion go by. It's sparked a fierce debate over whether Ferrari was right to resort to team orders this early in the season.

"They mustn't harm [Leclerc's] credibility and paint him as a support act," wrote Martin Brundle after the race.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF90 in parc ferme.

"I think they got it wrong," agreed former Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger. "I don’t think it’s enough to say, ‘This one is experienced, this one is not experienced, so we take the card of experience.’"

"Once you start doing these things it becomes very complicated, because you start to set a precedent," warned Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

But despite his evident frustration during the race itself, Leclerc later professed himself satisfied if perhaps not entirely happy with the team's explanation for the controversial strategy.

“Obviously we had the meeting,” Leclerc noted. “It was not an easy situation. I was obviously struggling with tyres. We both were. But at the time, it just felt like Seb was quicker."

However Vettel was unable to do anything with his new track position, making the team orders look even more questionable at the time.

“Obviously being behind me for some laps, he also damaged his tyres," Leclerc said. "When he went in front, his tyres were probably also damaged.”

Team boss Mattia Binotto said that the orders had been for the good of the team as a whole, not for the benefit of one driver over the other. “I think as a team, we did whatever we could.”

Asked if he was satisfied with the explanation he'd been given by the team, Leclerc replied: “Yeah. I mean, yeah.”

Gallery: The beautiful wives and girlfriends of F1 drivers

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter