Scuderia Ferrari Academy driver Charles Leclerc will take part in at least four Free Practice 1 sessions for the Sauber F1 Team across the remainder of the 2017 season, as he prepares himself to step up to F1 in 2018.
The Monegasque racer will get behind the wheel of the C36 at grand prix in Malaysia, USA, Mexico, Brazil and possibly the season finale in Abu Dhabi depending on how things stand in his FP2 title bid, at that stage of the competition.
The news has set rumours flying that the 19-year-old will be given a seat with the Swiss squad next year, with Pascal Wehrlein the most likely of Sauber’s current drivers to be dropped, as Marcus Ericsson has close ties to the Hinwil based squad’s financial backers.
Leclerc currently leads the FIA Formula 2 Championship by fifty-nine points, giving him a good cushion heading into the final three race weekends, enough that he feels he can now devote time to taking part in the free practice sessions, having previously turned down the opportunity to focus on his F2 campaign.
The 19-year-old is a highly rated driver, having also taken the GP3 Series title in 2016, as well as proving his potential by topping the times at the in-season test in Hungary, when he drove the Ferrari SF70-H.
The Monegasque would have written himself into the record books too, having accumulated the most F2/GP2 pole positions in succession ahead of the round in Hungary, had it not been for a technicality that saw him penalised and subsequently demoted down the order. The potential was there for all to see however.
Leclerc has many fans across the paddock and motorsport community, none more so than his manager Nicolas Todt, who told French broadcaster Canal+ recently, that he believes Leclerc’s talent will see him joining the F1 ranks sooner rather than later.
“It’s clear that Charles is an exceptional driver.
“His first objective is to win the Formula 2 championship this year, an accomplishment which few have achieved in their first year in the series.
“My job is to try to get him into Formula 1 as soon as next year. I can’t tell you if he’ll be there but I’m rather confident.
“Given his results in F2 there’s no reason he shouldn’t be in F1 in 2018.”