Eighteen-year-old Charles Leclerc is set to make the move to the GP3 Series, in what is a clean slate to the series with the introduction of the GP3/16 car that will pose a challenge to both rookies and returning drivers.
“First of all, this year the GP3 championship have a completely new car which is an interesting parameter as the team and I have to develop the car as quick as possible and this will be good for me to grow as a driver,” Leclerc told theCheckeredFlag.co.uk. “Then the grid is really competitive this year, and the series uses Pirelli tyres, Pirelli tyres are also used in the GP2 Series and Formula One so it is always good for me to get use to this type of tyres.”
Leclerc had his first taste of the GP3/16 during the two day shakedown which took place at Magny-Cours at the start of the month, topping the timing sheets for the morning session on day two.
“For the moment I don’t know much about it but it looks great ! I’ve done half a day in it, and all went perfect but it was in bad conditions so it is hard to judge it. But just positive thoughts about the first laps for now.
The Pirelli tyres have been a talking point since they were introduced in Formula One, GP2 and GP3 – with Leclerc believing that learning how these work is key to his season and possibly even the title at the end.
“I have a great team and the car is new this year so it definitely is possible. I will have to learn how the tyres work quickly though.”
Leclerc also revealed why he ultimately decided to sign for the GP3 champions, a team which he has worked with in the past.
“Why ART GP?, because I think that at the moment they are the best team in GP3. I’ve worked with them in the past in karting and I’ve tested with them at the end of last year in Abu Dhabi, and I just felt great in the team, they are really really professional and I loved that.”
In addition to his signing to ART, Leclerc has also been announced as part of the Ferrari Drivers Academy and will take on the role as Ferrari Development driver.
“I’m honoured to be part of the Ferrari Drivers Academy, it is a great opportunity for me. They will for sure teach me many things and help me to become a more complete driver.”
For the young Monegasque driver, this is also the opportunity to venture outside of Europe more with GP3’s debut in Malaysia and the season once again ending at Abu Dhabi.
“I’m looking forward to Malaysia in particular as I don’t know the track and Abu Dhabi which is a track I love.”
As to who Leclerc thinks will be his biggest challenge, he is not too sure yet having not had any official tests yet but feels his teammates (Nirei Fukuzumi, Alexander Albon and Nyck de Vries) with pose him a threat.
“There will for sure be loads of fast drivers. We are 6-7 drivers who can fight for the championship in my opinion, but always hard to give names before the first official test. We will see after Estoril but I’ve got really fast team-mates.“