Charles Leclerc arrives in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship in 2015 driving for the team that took current Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen to ten wins in 2014, Van Amersfoort Racing.
The highly rated seventeen-year-old Monegasque driver spoke to The Checkered Flag ahead of his series debut at Silverstone this weekend, hopeful of having a strong rookie season, and revealed that he already has links to Formula 1, having been taught how to race by Jules Bianchi and his father.
“My father was racing as well, and one day he brought me to the karting track of the Bianchi family where Philippe (Jules’ father) and Jules taught me how to drive,” revealed Leclerc.
“I loved it straight away and told my father I wanted to do that when I will be older, since then, I’m racing!”
Looking over his career so far, Leclerc believes he has done well so far ever since debuting in karting, but remains calm as he steps up to another level in Formula 3 in 2015.
”I think until now [my career] has been good in general,” said the Monegasque driver. “I had really good years in karting, I worked hard, and last year I jumped to single seaters in Formula Renault 2.0. It was completely different to karting, but at the end, it has been a good year as well.
“Now FIA Formula 3 is another step forward, so I’ll have to work even harder and we’ll see how it goes! I have the chance to be in good hands with All Road Management, so I’m in the best conditions to keep growing as a driver.”
Leclerc revealed the reasons why he joined Van Amersfoort Racing, citing he felt happy in the team immediately, having chosen the Dutch squad over Prema Powerteam, Carlin and Fortec Motorsport. The Monegasque driver felt the team were his best option for the upcoming season.
“I tested with different teams and then I tested with Van Amersfoort in Valencia at the end of last year,” said Leclerc. “It went well and I felt straight away really good in the team, and I loved the way they work!
“I talked with my manager Nicolas Todt, and after some talks, we thought that they were the best team to sign with.
“They are very, very professional and I really like that. They tell me the things straight away if I’m doing something wrong and that makes me improve more quickly! They also listen to their drivers a lot, that’s what I like the most. The atmosphere in the team is very good, they are true racers!”
Leclerc revealed how he was preparing for the forthcoming season, working on his physical and mental conditions, as well as visiting the team’s factory to ready himself as much as possible.
“I’m going to Formula Medicine, which is a program to train drivers physically and mentally,” revealed Leclerc. “I do a lot of sport at home as well, and I go quite often in the Netherlands to visit the team, to do some simulator work and learn as much as possible on the car.”
In the pre-season test at Valencia, Leclerc was third fastest in the dry on day one, before setting the pace on day two in damp conditions. He believed that he and the team learnt a lot from their track days in Spain.
“They went really well,” insisted Leclerc. “The first day in the dry, we tested loads of things which will be really helpful for the future. And in the wet as well, we were fast in both conditions and I learnt a lot so I think it was really good tests.”
Looking ahead to the new season, Leclerc has lofty ambitions for 2015, with the Monegasque driver hoping to be amongst those challenging for the title. He has belief in the team that they can fight for top honours once more.
“My target is to be in the top 3 at the end of the championship,” said Leclerc. “It is going to be hard and I’ll have to learn the car really quickly as some really experience drivers are in this series. But I’m in a great team and I think we have the potential to do it!”