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Leclerc: Racing for the Scuderia would be the realisation of a dream

NEWS STORY
16/08/2017

At Spa-Francorchamps next weekend, following a difficult outing in Hungary, Charles Leclerc will set about extending his already impressive lead over Oliver Rowland as the F2 season resumes.

If one discounts the abortive F2 revival of 2009 - 2012, in winning the F2 title, the Monegasque would be following in some pretty impressive tyre tracks, including those of Jacky Ickx, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Clay Regazzoni, Ronnie Peterson and Mike Hailwood.

If, as is widely expected, he goes on to win the title - he heads Rowland by 50 points - he would be the first driver to win it in his rookie year since Nico Hulkenberg won it - albeit as GP2 - in 2009.

A member of the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA), his promotion to the Maranello outfit's legendary F1 team is a question of 'when' rather than 'if', his performance during the recent Hungaroring test merely putting added pressure on the Italian team as it ponders whether to take an immediate gamble or place him at Sauber for his apprenticeship.

Though it appears the Italian team will retain Kimi Raikkonen alongside Sebastian Vettel, and use the Swiss option for Leclerc, the youngster admits that Ferrari remains his dream.

"It's true, racing for the Scuderia would be the realisation of a dream," he tells the official F1 website. "But for now I have to focus solely on winning in F2, on giving it my all over the next few months. If I don't succeed then I won't really go much further.

"The results in this first part of the season have been better than expected," he continues, "and we're clearly delighted about that. Seeing my name in the media more often and having it linked to Formula 1 and Ferrari is nice, but it's not putting any extra pressure on me. I am focusing on what I have to do with Prema, leaving others to think about my future."

Those "others" include friend and manager, Nicolas Todt, and, of course, the Ferrari Driver Academy.

"Being part of an organisation like the FDA is very important, because Formula 1 is a somewhat closed world," he admits. "Therefore, to be able to progress in the best possible environment is essential when working one's way up to Formula 1.

"Furthermore, they give me amazing support in terms of my physical and mental preparation. It also means I have regular access to the Scuderia's incredible simulator, which for a youngster is an ideal way to improve one's technique and it also provides the best possible preparation for each race."

The FDA also proved invaluable in giving the youngster support during some of the most difficult times of his life; the loss of close friend - and fellow FDA member - Jules Bianchi, and then, earlier this year, his father Herve, who passed away days before the Azerbaijan race weekend. Still mourning the loss of his 'Papa', the youngster took a determined pole in Baku, going on to win the feature race, and subsequently claiming second in the sprint event.

"It's true I feel stronger and have grown up a lot recently," he says. "I was helped a lot by the psychologists at the FDA, who made me realise how important it is for all of us to be mentally strong, especially if you are working as a racing driver.

"Today, I am more self-aware: racing is the biggest thing in my life, but I know there are other things in life and it's from them that I must draw even more energy.

"Fear? No, that doesn't exist," he insists. "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 and I have never driven even a single metre, afraid that something could happen."

It was his father, Herve, himself a former racer, who first turned Charles on to racing, introducing the youngster to karting at the ripe old age of four. It was at the kart track that he was to subsequently meet Bianchi

"I had told my father that I wasn't feeling well, so I could skip school and 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," he reveals.

"He would always talk to me about Senna and so I grew up imbued in that legend and he was my hero. I watched his Monaco qualifying laps so often, seeing him drive on the streets I would walk along every day. Taking pole, driving the perfect lap: that's really the best and it gives you an incredible thrill.

"There's never a day goes by when I don't think about what I want to achieve and I always give a hundred percent to get there. Being in Formula 1 is my dream and my goal and I am doing everything I can to make it happen."

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