Charles Leclerc paid tribute to the late Jules Bianchi ahead of his first Formula One season as a Ferrari driver. The 21-year-old will replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari this year, with the former world champion moving in the opposite direction to return to Sauber after starting his career there back in 2001.
The move continues Charles Leclerc’s remarkable rise through the ranks, having won the GP3 and Formula Two championships back-to-back over the last two years before impressing in his first year in the top class with five points-scoring finishes. His form in the Alfa Romeo Sauber last year convinced the Scuderia Ferrari hierarchy that the time was right to replace Kimi Raikkonen and promote their former Academy driver, who followed in the footsteps of French driver Bianchi by becoming the team’s test and reserve driver before finding a seat further down the grid.
Jules Bianchi tragically died in July 2015 due to injuries he sustained in an accident while driving for Marussia at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, a loss that shocked the sport and saw the first fatality at a race weekend since Ayrton Senna in 1994. The loss of Bianchi was followed two years later by the death of Leclerc’s father, Herve, in June 2017 following a long illness, which came shortly before the then-teenager drove to victory in Baku as part of his F2-title winning season.
Charles Leclerc admitted that he wants to win the titles which Jules Bianchi deserved: “He was extremely important to me. If one day I have the chance to be there, I will try to do everything I possibly can to win the titles that he deserved to win.” – the Monégasque racing driver said – “Jules was older than me, so you always push yourself to beat him. They are very good memories of us together, but he was more than a mentor, he was also an extremely close friend, a bit like family.” – Charles Leclerc added.