Leclerc, the next Gille Villenueve?

In Italy Charles Leclerc is already called a golden boy, is that justified?

The new teammate of Sebastian Vettel goes against the usual driver philosophy at the Scuderia, with Ferrari normally relying on experienced drivers over youngsters. The obvious exception being Felipe Massa in 2006 aged 24.

Fans of Formula have followed the rise of Charles Leclerc with great interest, and his results so far indicate that Monegasque is a potential star of the future.

Some have cast some doubt on that theory however; the Sauber in 2018 was actually a very good car proven by some impressive results from F1 ‘journeyman’ Erikkson. But regardless, the fact Leclerc was a first-year rookie shows some serious talent.

He won the GP3 championship in 2016, the Formula 2 title in 2017 and Ferrari confirmed in 2018 that he will sit next to Sebastian Vettel in the second factory car from Melbourne in 2019.

Esteban Ocon is convinced: “Leclerc has every opportunity to have a say in the title with Ferrari as early as the first year.

The Monegasque must achieve top results on a regular basis. There won’t be a warm-up phase in a top team like Ferrari. The pressure will be enormouse.

Sources within Maranello have been reported as calling Leclerc ‘The Golden Boy’.

After only 21 races before his first at Ferrari, are there any parallels? Even Felipe Massa had 52 races with Sauber before joining Micheal Schumacher in 2006 at Ferrari.

We actually have to turn back 34 years until we find a driver with comparably little experience.

The Swede Stefan Johansson had only contested 13 Grands Prix when he was called into the team for the then fired René Arnoux.

Gilles Villeneuve

Even more green was the famous Ferrari driver who became a myth – Gilles Villeneuve was hired by Enzo Ferrari after the Canadian had only driven one WRC race, in 1977 for McLaren at Silverstone!

How well Charles Leclerc does at the opening race of the season in Australia we will find out in about two months. Here is a list of the Ferrari newcomers of the last thirty years and how they performed in red at their first race of their first season.

First Grand Prix in Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel in Australia 2015: 3rd place
Fernando Alonso in Bahrain 2010: 1st place
Giancarlo Fisichella in Monza 2009: 9th place (replacement for Massa)
Luca Badoer in Valencia 2009: 17th place (replacement for Massa)
Kimi Räikkönen in Australia 2007: 1st place
Felipe Massa in Bahrain 2006: 9th place
Rubens Barrichello in Australia 2000: 2nd place
Mika Salo in Austria 1999: 9th place (replacement for Schumacher)
Michael Schumacher in Australia 1996: Failure
Eddie Irvine in Australia 1996: 3rd place
Nicola Larini in Japan 1992: 12th place.
Ivan Capelli in South Africa 1992: Failure
Gianni Morbidelli in Australia 1991: 6th place
Alain Prost in Phoenix 1990: Failure
Nigel Mansell in Brazil 1989: 1st place.

11 responses to “Leclerc, the next Gille Villenueve?

  1. Villeneuve was 27 and had 10 years of relatively high level motor racing experience across a wide variety of categories when he joined Ferrari, unlike Leclerc who has had 3 years of essentially stage-managed experience. Leclerc like Norris are both largely creations of each teams CEO, who pushed them as each were viewed as Marchionne’s / Brown’s “guy”. In my opinion nether are ready for Ferrari or McLaren in 2019 – later maybe but not for the upcoming season.

  2. Can’t compare two such different eras, hard enough to do it now.

    I think a more realistic comparison would be with Hamilton, in that both won in GP 2 and 3. The fundamental difference being Leclerc won his titles in his first season of category…

    I’m not convinced Leclerc has been stage managed to the level of Norris for the simple fact Ferrari has had countless juniors come through their ranks but have been released, as per Sergio Perez.

    But whilst I feel he’ll prove more combatitive than an aged Kimi, over the course a season Vettel will prevail… this year.

    • could we see a wholesale bias toward leclerc should he take the battle to Vettel, in an Alonso / Hamilton manner?

    • I would argue Leclerc won the GP3 and F2 titles in probably the series weakest years. Look at who he competed against – not one is likely to do much if anything even if they get into F1

      As for Perez – he was never going to get into Ferrari when Alonso and Massa were there.

      • You seem to have some personal grudge against Leclerc. Wait, you’re not Kimi Räikkönen by any chance are you? But seriously, I don’t see how you can doubt Leclerc’s worthiness of becoming a Ferrari driver when most F1 experts have only praised him and I saw some of his F2 races and I thought he was exceptional. I personally think he’s definitely a very talented racing driver and very worthy of getting a seat at Ferrari. But we’ll see how it turns out in the next 11 months.

  3. With a childhood engineered and steered towards F1 by his father Herve’, Nicholas Todt, Jules Bianchi, Jules’ father etc while growing up in the F1 Mecca of Monaco, Charles was always going to be a champion in any car he was given to ‘dance’ with.
    They are / were some very well-credentialed teachers to have as “close family” while growing up!
    His car control and understanding of the engineering aspects are fantastic, his courage is immense and his will to win speaks for itself with his efforts to finish races at all costs, even in a slower car.
    I also love the fact that he is always trying to pass the car in front of him as soon and as smooth as possible – without being a fool – which compared to most young guns these days is exceptional. (most especially “the chosen one”!!!)

    This extremely rare and highly-coveted opportunity at Ferrari is definitely a huge privilege for one so young – but – with Charles, it is far more measured and deserved than the Dutch RedBully’s premature introduction to F1. Max, although blindingly quick, had far less experience and has a much hotter head.
    Charles is far more rounded and ready for the big time than any young person I have ever witnessed in watching F1 for 40-odd years. Added to his sublime driving qualities are his poised, self-assured demeanour, impeccable manners, unerring positivity and “that smile” … which every advertising manager dreams of finding.
    They are a “Tailor-made” set of qualities which make him a perfect choice for the job ahead, which would daunt and destroy most young guys’ confidence before they even sat in that scary bright red car.

    My hope for the lad is that he has a sensational Quali and Race in Australia to start the year because Ferrari is adored by a huge local band of dedicated Tifosi in Melbourne.
    People outside of Australia might not know it but there is a massive Italian community in Melbourne where Ferrari Scarlet lines the legendary Lygon St, which is the main street of “Little Italy” in the inner city suburb Carlton.
    The Ferrari name is proudly held aloft in the scores of restaurants, cafe’s, deli’s, bakery’s, retail shops etc, it’s almost akin to Maranello. Ferrari drivers are treated like rock stars in Lygon St, and Melbourne in general, so it’s the perfect place for Charles to do well and set up an early base for a full-blooded tilt at Mercedes. A place where he’ll enjoy plenty of support, not only from the adoring Tifosi, but also the heartfelt backing of everyone in the world who is desperate to see a cool change to blow through F1.

    But wait – there’s more:
    There’s that almighty-powerful “emotional factor” to take into consideration … the first time Charles steps on the podium or wins a race this year, we will all shed a collective tear or three as he looks lovingly skywards, to dedicate his success to his two late mentors.
    There’ll be no better way for him to celebrate than with the ever-present spirits of his much-loved father Herve’ and his “big bro” / godfather Jules!

    Fire-up young fella! I for one will be along for the ride and I wish you the very best of luck! (as an Aussie, I hope Jules’ close friend Dan Ricciardo can share that highly emotional podium – nudge nudge wink wink)

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