Leclerc has enjoyed a dream start to the 2022 F1 season and finds himself leading the championship by 34 points over Mercedes’ George Russell, while a second retirement in three races has left his main title rival Max Verstappen 46 points adrift. 

The Monegasque took his second victory of the season with a dominant drive in the Australian Grand Prix as he continued to underline his calibre as a potential world champion. 

While he has never before fought for the F1 title, winning a championship is nothing new to Leclerc, who stormed to back-to-back title successes in GP3 and Formula 2 before sealing his F1 graduation in 2018. 

Leclerc has already rejected the suggestion he has made a step up in his performances from last year amid his impressive start to 2022. Instead of simply driving better, the 24-year-old says there is one key difference compared to his previous seasons at Ferrari. 

"I have been in this situation in the junior categories but to be in it in F1 means a lot," Leclerc said after winning in Melbourne. “Especially after the last two years and especially with a team like Ferrari. So it feels incredible.

“Obviously, the mindset is a bit different compared to the last two years because now I know that underneath me I have a car that is capable of winning and I don't really have to overdo things to do something extremely special and spectacular to get one or two positions - because I know it is in the car and I just have to do the job.”

Perhaps the biggest question mark hanging over the self-critical Leclerc going into the campaign was whether he could iron out his tendency to make the odd error that have big consequences, such as his qualifying crash in Monaco last year. 

Leclerc previously stressed his past mistakes were out of a desire to produce something special in a car that was not capable of otherwise fighting at the front of the grid. 

Now he has a competitive package underneath him with the F1-75, Leclerc no longer needs to overdrive in order to deliver results. 

So far, Leclerc has been flawless and his performance at Albert Park was the biggest demonstration yet that he has all the credentials needed to win his maiden F1 title. 

Leclerc admitted Australia marked the first time in his F1 career that he was able to completely control the lead of a race. Even if Verstappen had not dropped out of contention, he looked as though he would have still eased to a very comfortable win.

However, despite his brilliant start to 2022, Leclerc is refusing to get carried away with 20 races still to go in F1’s longest-ever season. 

“Obviously we are only at the third race so it’s difficult to think about the championship,” he stressed. “But to be honest, we’ve got a very strong car, a very reliable car too, and for now we’ve always been there. 

“I hope it continues like this and if it does then we probably have chances for the championship which obviously makes me smile after the last two years, which have been difficult for the team and also for myself. So it’s great to be back in this position.”

Can Ferrari stay ahead of Red Bull? 

Ferrari has not won a world championship of any kind since 2008 but there is no doubt that F1’s most famous team looks to be in its strongest position to end its long wait for silverware this year. 

The Italian outfit is determined not to repeat the same errors that contributed to its most recent title collapses in 2017 and 2018 when it ultimately fell short of Mercedes as the German manufacturer pulled clear in the development race. 

Ferrari will also be mindful of the similar points advantage Fernando Alonso held over Sebastian Vettel in 2012, only for the Red Bull driver to stage a remarkable comeback to snatch the title away in one of the most thrilling championship showdowns of recent times. 

Another tough development war is set to rage once more in 2022, with teams seeking to extract the maximum out of their new concepts following one of F1’s biggest technical regulation overhauls in history. 

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has already claimed that his side is in a much better position compared to the past, and Leclerc is also confident that Ferrari has what it takes to rise to the challenge of keeping Red Bull behind. 

"To keep up with Red Bull is going to be difficult but it is the same team that did this car that will work on the development for this year's car,” he explained. 

"There is no reason for us to be on the back foot. All the guys at Maranello have done a great job building up this car for this year. There are some developments coming and I am confident it will go in the right direction.

"I wouldn't focus too much on the others. We need to focus on ourselves, not on the others.

"Since the last two years, I have really seen a jump in the way we have analysed every weekend, in the way we have identified our weaknesses and how quick we were to react and try and get better in the places we were struggling. 

“So I am confident the team can do a great job with development this year."