It’s hard to remember when last a rookie made such a strong impression in Formula 1 as Charles Leclerc did in 2018, the kid showed flashes of sheer brilliance as he set about entrenching himself at the pinnacle of the sport, ticking all the boxes and his efforts rewarded with a 2019 Ferrari drive.
The Monaco Kid, despite a slightly wobbly start, got himself in the groove and was easily better than his journeyman teammate Marcus Ericsson, no comparison actually.
There were a few mistakes, expected of a rookie but he proved to be a fast learner and by the end of the season he was right up there with the Best of the Rest
Leclerc scored 39 points – more than any of the other rookies – while teammate Ericsson could only bag nine in the 21 races last season. I would venture to say his sixth place in Baku was a highlight, as was his strong finish to the season, namely a ‘hat-trick’ of seventh places in the final three races. His thank you to the Swiss team.
The fact that under Frederic Vasseur’s leadership were a respectable force again helped the 21-year-old’s cause and he, in turn, delivered for them.
So good was his performance that Ferrari made a policy change, hiring him for next season and thus making him the second youngest driver they have ever hired for the Scuderia. Last time the Reds gave youth a chance was over half a century ago!
Leclerc represents a new generation of F1 talent, set to follow in the footsteps of Max Verstappen who has achieved so much at such a young age.
Indeed it does not take a clairvoyant to predict that Max versus Charlie could well become a big rivalry of years to come, perhaps beginning with the first race in Melbourne next year.
However, before that, the youngster will be judged against his teammate Sebastian Vettel, the four times F1 world champion he will partner at the Scuderia next year, but that’s the next chapter in this tale.
For now, a Formula 1 star was born and now it remains to be seen if he will shine bright or burn out… I predict the bright bit for Charles Leclerc, the undisputed 2018 Rookie of the Year.