Eighteen-year-old Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc is likely to participate in a free practice session with the Haas F1 Team after completing more than 300km in a 2014 Ferrari at the Fiorano track in Italy.
Leclerc, who will compete with ART Grand Prix in the GP3 Series this season, was able to run on a multiple of Pirelli demo tyre compounds during his day at the Italian circuit, with the track having started out wet before drying enough to get onto the Hard, Medium and Soft compounds.
Leclerc, part of the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) and signed up by the Haas team as a developmental driver in 2016, was being observed and assisted by FDA boss Massimo Rivola, who feels the teenager will get at least one free practice outing during the 2016 season.
“I think it will be this year,” said Rivola to Autosport of his chances of an FP1 appearance. “I’m not really talking to him about that because he knows his focus is to fight for the GP3 championship, which is the main target.
“This [the FP1 run] is not a stress. If it happens, then fine, and it’s likely it will happen. If it comes, then I would prefer it to be towards the end of the season because then he will be completely ready.
“One of the risks with these young kids is if they start thinking about Formula 1 then they will lose focus, but I have every confidence in him.”
Rivola was impressed by Leclerc during the day at Fiorano, with the Monegasque driver having been told to show that Ferrari could trust him and his feedback rather than show the talent the team already knows he possesses.
“Before jumping in the car I told him he didn’t have to show us his talent,” insisted Rivola. “I’m already aware of his talent, so he needed to show us he is someone we can count on for many different types of work, such as the simulator for example.
“For a young driver he has a good head on his shoulders, and not many drivers have that, so that was the first target for him. Overall he did a very good job, he showed he was quick, and there were no noticeable mistakes.
“On the different sets of tyres he felt the difference in grip, and his performance improved. I spoke to him at the end of the day and he couldn’t stop thanking me. He told me it was the best day of his life. It’s so nice to work with guys like that.”