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This Sport Has Killed People I Loved…Charles Leclerc On Doctor’s Report

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Charles Leclerc wears a boyish smile. He is easy going, polite and affable. But behind his calm exterior must lie a streak of steel. For Ferrari’s No 1 has suffered more than his fair of tragedy across 24 years. His godfather Jules Bianchi died nine months after crashing at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. And in 2017, his father Herve died after a period of deteriorating health.

 

 

As if that was not enough to bear, his friend Anthoine Hubert died in the Formula Two race on the weekend of the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix. Leclerc stood with his head bowed on the grid as tribute was paid to the 22-year-old Frenchman. He then jumped into his Ferrari and won the race. Leclerc, who comes to Silverstone 49 points behind Max Verstappen, relives those defining moments and serves as an example of the cold dedication it takes to be one of the 20 men who will drive at 210mph this weekend.

 

 

‘I don’t think about danger,’ said Leclerc, who has never so much as broken a finger. ‘I was extremely close to Jules, and Anthoine I had known since we were young. ‘It is very, very difficult to see people you have known but aren’t here anymore because of the sport you love most. But I don’t think about stopping. I have been programmed to do this since I was young. There is nothing else I can do. I am just good at driving.’ Hevre’s death fell two days before Leclerc was due to race in Baku in a Formula Two race. So how did he focus amid the trauma of losing his 54-year-old father?

 

 

‘I asked myself what my father would have wanted me to do at that moment,’ recalls the Monegasque. The answer came up pretty quickly: to race and to win. Both objectives were achieved. ‘I was extremely close to my father,’ he continued. ‘He had basically done everything for me. I went straight to Baku and then came back to do what I needed with my family. ‘I can be emotional at home but I am a different person in the car. It is a character I have built over the years. I can move from one window to another to perform at 100 per cent. ‘The only things I felt guilty about putting the passing of my father and a friend out of my mind. But it was only for a couple of hours.’ Leclerc has driven clear headedly this year in a fast but less than bulletproof Ferrari. After a brilliant start to the championship, he suffered two engine failures, in Barcelona and Baku, and a bungled strategy in Monaco. Then a grid penalty in Montreal.

 

 

In an attempt to narrow the gap to Verstappen, Leclerc was in Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters this week driving the simulator and trying to keep the troops’ spirits up. Still, after two bleak years for Scuderia it is a rosier red for the team now. ‘It is a long season and I believe we can win the championship,’ said Leclerc. ‘That is what gets me up in the morning. The good times will come.’ As for Lewis Hamilton’s prospects of winning an eighth title, Leclerc, a big admirer of the Mercedes star, said: ‘I think in the right car, yes, because he is a great. But if it’s him or me for the championship, I’d choose myself obviously. ‘Sorry, Lewis.’

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