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Charles Leclerc

The lowdown on Charles Leclerc

2017: N/A. Born: 16/10/1997.

He may be starting out with F1’s bottom team, but Charles Leclerc is on the fast track to the top.

The Monaco-born racer will make his debut at the age of 20, having been brought in at the expense of Mercedes’ young hope Pascal Wehrlein as more evidence of Sauber’s growing partnership with Ferrari.

While Wehrlein was unable to make much impact – though he out-scored senior team-mate Marcus Ericsson – Leclerc will be bursting with confidence after winning the GP3 title in 2016 and the Formula 2 championship last year.

The Ferrari academy graduate should have an advantage thanks to Sauber’s new financial and technical deal with Alfa Romeo, who return to F1 for the first time in more than 30 years as the team’s title sponsor.

The cars will not only bear the famed Alfa Romeo logo, but will also have 2018-spec Ferrari engines, putting them on par this time with the Italian marque’s other partner Haas.

Leclerc, one of two rookies on the grid along with Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin, made a positive impression at pre-season testing until he hit a wall on the final day.

He started out racing karts at the age of four, thanks to his father’s best friend Philippe Bianchi, who owned a local track and whose son Jules would become Charles’ best friend and also a Ferrari academy star.

Tragically, Jules Bianchi died in 2014 after crashing at the Japanese Grand Prix competing for Marussia, and Leclerc’s father Herve – also a former racing driver – passed in 2017 before his son had completed his F2 triumph.

“I have had to grow up very quickly due to both the nature of my profession as well as personal circumstances,” Leclerc told the Sauber website. “I owe everything to my father and Jules, and I dedicate each race and each victory to them.”