Among the many moments that have made Charles Leclerc a beloved driver by Ferrari and non-Ferrari fans alike, the Formula 2 sprint race in Bahrain in 2017 probably remains, to this day, the main highlight of the Monegasque’s career. The then PREMA driver turned a technically audacious strategy into a masterpiece, achieving an unexpected victory by climbing from the fourteenth position.
GP Bahrain 2017: When Leclerc became the chosen one
We find ourselves in Bahrain, the first round of the Formula 2 season at the Sakhir circuit. Charles Leclerc, making his debut in the category, already set a stunning time in qualifying, earning him pole position for the feature race. He outpaced his then teammate Antonio Fuoco in PREMA by almost seven tenths.
But it was in the race that the young nineteen-year-old Monegasque accomplished a feat destined to rewrite the pages of motorsport. Starting from the sixth position, Charles managed to overtake Luca Ghiotto and snatch the lead of the race on lap 9 out of 23.
As usual in a sprint race, no one usually stops at the pit for a tire change since making a pit stop with only a few laps left to recover from the chasers is often counterproductive.
On that day, however, PREMA came up with a strategy considered too daring on paper but proved to be tremendously effective, thanks to the incredible performance that Leclerc would display from lap 15 onwards. Returning to the pit on lap 14 with a 9.4-second advantage, Charles found himself in fourteenth place on the track, with only 9 laps remaining.
Madness, everyone thought, but not Charles Leclerc. Lap record after lap record, the future Ferrari driver found himself passing all his opponents with extreme ease, at times running 4 seconds faster than everyone else, who in the meantime began to suffer heavily from tire degradation.
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Arriving on the last lap already in third place, Leclerc dived into the braking zone at Turn 1, taking second place from Rowland. Shortly after, the Monegasque took advantage of Ghiotto’s mistake in Turn 4 to take the lead and cross the finish line as the winner with a 1.5-second lead.
An indescribable feat that Charles was able to achieve, who then went on to win the F2 title at the end of the season, moving to Formula 1 with Alfa Romeo the following year. His rookie year at the court of the Hinwil team was so impressive that it convinced Ferrari to offer him a seat in 2019, alongside a certain Sebastian Vettel. The rest, as we have witnessed with our own eyes, is history.