The relationship between drivers and the press is an odd one. Obviously, both depend on the other to a certain extent: drivers (via their teams and their sponsors) need publicity, and journalists need stories.

While the need is mutual, and both parties form part of the small global community that is the F1 travelling circus, it is highly unusual for drivers and journalists to have real relationships. Quiet tete-a-tetes are almost unheard of, and pretty much every interaction is supervised by one or more members of the team’s communications team.



Sometimes, however, a driver will do something out of the ordinary, create a small human interaction that fosters a sense of real connection.

One of Formula One’s most exciting young talents set himself apart to me in this way, via an incredibly simple application of good manners. 

In late 2017, during the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, I ran a small article on Charles Leclerc, calling him Ferrari’s future star. It was hardly an unusual position to take - by this time last year everyone was calling the young Monegasque Ferrari’s future star. Nevertheless, on the very day the article was published, Leclerc wrote me a letter, thanking me for the coverage and for my kind words.

I was blown away, but so too were all of my colleagues. Thank you letters from F1 drivers are few and far between.

Leclerc has been making waves for his performances on track, and rightly so. He blew away the field in Formula Two last year, and has delivered a number of impressive drives in a Sauber that’s good but not great. But rather than his qualifying stats and career points, it is that thank you letter that tells me that Charles has what it takes to be - and to beat - the best.

What did Leclerc have to gain from writing such a note? He could have taken the gamble that I would tell all and sundry what great manners he has (and I have done, often), but I prefer to think of it as an indication that Charles is a well-brought up young man who has and shows good manners.

Good manners could be seen as a weakness in a racing driver, of course - the last thing any team wants is a driver holding the door open for his rivals to pass ahead. But Leclerc has long since shown that he’s no opener of doors on track. He is, however, like the man with whom he will be swapping seats in 2019, Kimi Raikkonen, a racing driver who fights hard but always keeps it clean.

Charles is a fierce fighter, but one who treats his on-track rivals with respect. That is a vital attribute for anyone called up to represent Ferrari, the most iconic brand in Formula One. Simply wearing a red race suit means added pressure, added intensity, added glare from the media spotlight.

But Leclerc is taking it all in his stride, saying this week in Singapore that he doesn’t feel any added pressure.

“I can see that a lot of people think I will have a lot more pressure on my shoulders but I really don’t,” he said. “I think I have a mentality which really takes off all the pressure. I really focus on myself and don’t really think about what people expect from me in the car.

“If I do the right job in the car and I work in the right way, then the performances will be there. I just fully focus on myself and do a good job on the car, so no, I don’t feel the pressure.”

Just how well Leclerc responds to life in red remains to be seen. But he handled the transition from F2 to F1 with aplomb, and throughout this season has continued to be as friendly and approachable with Sauber as he was with Prema.

For me, that simple thank you letter - written by a 19-year-old on the cusp of winning the F2  title, during a period when he had a lot to deal with both personally and professionally - is the clearest indication we have that Charles Leclerc is thoughtful, respectful, and kind. 

Charles’ results (and his contract) show he’s quick enough for the Scuderia. His good manners and consideration for others tell me that he’s got the character to survive whatever life at the top will throw at him.


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