Ahead of the French Grand Prix this Sunday, July 24, Charles Leclerc, second in the drivers’ standings, talks about Ferrari’s results. Announced favorite at the start of the season, the Italian team is now on the hunt for RedBull, ahead in the driver and constructor standings. The Monegasque also looks back on his duel, sometimes tough, with Max Verstappen.
“In performance, we are favorites, but we had certain problems which mean that today we are no longer outsiders”: after bouncing back in Austria, Charles Leclerc is aiming for another victory in France on Sunday, to believe in “the possibility to catch up” Max Verstappen.
Second to 38 points from the Dutchman mid-season in the F1 world championship, the Ferrari driver evokes “the battles at the limit of the regulations” with his rival but also the tragic events of his personal life, which “made him grow as a person and as a pilot”.
Do you feel like a favorite or an underdog?
“In terms of performance, we are favourites, after that we had certain problems which mean that today we are more outsiders than favourites. But I believe in it, if we do everything perfectly until the end of the season, the performance is there so that we can win the championship, so I will believe in it until the end”.
Despite your excellent start to the season, Ferrari’s reliability and strategy cost you dearly in the title race…
“Of course there was an accumulation in five races: Barcelona we were in the lead, we broke the engine, Monaco the strategy, Baku the engine, Montreal the penalty and then Silverstone the strategy… An accumulation like that , it was not easy to manage. But each time we were in positions to win, so the potential was there. I always kept the motivation. It makes me even more happy than the first normal race Since then, we have won it in Austria. I am confident, if we have no other major problems we have the possibility of catching up”.
How is it to fight Verstappen, considered aggressive on the track?
“I’ve always been an aggressive driver too, so those battles don’t bother me. I’ve always enjoyed those edge-of-the-regulations battles, and it’s cool that after all the years in karts together there’s 10 -15 years, we now find ourselves in F1, that we fight for a championship”.
Is being able to stay calm in difficult times your greatest strength?
“It’s clearly a strength. However, it was not something natural for me. I had to work a lot, especially when I was young. I talked a lot about this Formula Medicine center in Viareggio when I I was younger, from ten to fifteen years old, where we did a lot of mental preparation. In those years, I grew enormously and that helped me a lot for the rest of my career. It’s true that , in complicated situations, I manage to keep my calm and that’s important”.
At 24, you went through tragic moments in life, with the deaths of your father and two pilots you were close to, your godfather Jules Bianchi and your friend Anthoine Hubert. Did it make you grow?
“Yes, I think so. Although I am still a 24-year-old young person, I have a maturity that is perhaps different from some of my friends, due to my background, not only professional but above all in life, with unfortunately events a little sad. But these are steps that have made me grow as a person and as a pilot, because I have developed a level of maturity that is a little bit different from a normal life”.
As a Monegasque, what relationship do you have with France and Italy?
“I’m already French-speaking. When I won in Formula 2, they put the French anthem on me (Il rigole). My biggest connection with France is that everything started here for me in motorsport. I started in Brignoles, 60 km from Le Castellet. Every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday when I didn’t have school, I came here with my father. But I also spent a good part of my childhood in Italy After the beginnings in France, I spent ten years in Italy. I grew up with Italians during my adolescence, so yes, I also feel Italian”.
As a quasi-Italian, winning a title with Ferrari is the dream of a lifetime…
“Of course. Already winning a title, but even more so with Ferrari. It’s such a legendary team, there’s also so much pressure which makes it super complicated, but which makes success even more beautiful. There is so much passion around the world for Ferrari that yes, I think it’s every driver’s dream on the grid, to win a title with Ferrari.”