Charles Leclerc says he has drawn ‘energy’ from the great personal challenges he has faced during his rapid ascension through the motorsport ranks following the death of his father earlier this year and the loss of his close friend Jules Bianchi in 2015.

Nineteen year-old Leclerc is considered one of motorsport’s future stars following a resounding route to the upper echelons of the sport, the Monegasque racer having already clinched the GP3 Series title in 2016 and forged a clear lead in this year’s Formula 2 Championship.

However, it has not come without difficult circumstances away from the track. Leclerc was a close personal friend of the late Bianchi – who died nine months after a tragic accident during the F1 Japanese Grand Prix in October 2014 – and continues to race in his honour.

Tragically, Leclerc would also lose his father earlier this year but after going on to secure an emotional win and pole position in Baku just days later, he says he has used such tough moments to spur him on to his goal of reaching F1.

“It’s true I feel stronger and have grown up a lot recently,” he told the F1 website. “I was helped a lot by the psychologists at the FDA (Ferrari Driver Academy), who made me realise how important it is for all of us to be mentally strong, especially if you are working as a racing driver.

“Today, I am more self-aware: racing is the biggest thing in my life, but I know there are other things in life and it’s from them that I must draw even more energy.

"Fear? No, that doesn’t exist. Even after Jules’ accident in Suzuka, I never had the slightest doubt about my future. I know that danger is part of racing, but when I’m in the cockpit, all I feel is the adrenalin rush and I have never driven even a single metre, afraid that something could happen.”

With four rounds of the season remaining, Leclerc holds a 50 point advantage over DAMS’ Oliver Rowland in the F2 standings and is widely tipped to progress to F1 in 2018 with Sauber as part of a grooming process that could see him in a Ferrari as soon as 2019.

“The results in this first part of the season have been better than expected and we’re clearly delighted about that. Seeing my name in the media more often and having it linked to Formula 1 and Ferrari is nice, but it’s not putting any extra pressure on me. I am focusing on what I have to do with [F2 team] Prema, leaving others to think about my future.”