Charles Leclerc says Michael Schumacher was his Ferrari idol in Formula 1 as he reflects on his rise up the ranks at the Scuderia.

After joining the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2015, Leclerc’s meteoric ascent saw him become a Ferrari works F1 driver in 2019 when he replaced Kimi Raikkonen alongside Sebastian Vettel in the team’s driver line-up.

Leclerc has continued to impress, outperforming Vettel last season to take fourth place in the F1 drivers’ world championship, and is seen as the Scuderia’s long-term future having signed a new contract keeping him at the team until at least the end of 2024.

Reflecting on his relationship with Ferrari, the Monegasque driver says its most successful driver in Schumacher was his “Ferrari driving hero” when he was junior dreaming of competing in F1.

“The Ferrari driving hero for me, and I think for many, was probably Michael. I was young when he was winning but it was always very impressive and any time I was watching Formula 1, especially Ferrari, it was obviously Michael that I was looking at,” Leclerc said in a Ferrari Q&A.

Leclerc’s first visit to Ferrari was as a youngster with Jules Bianchi and feels the prestige and facilities at its Maranello base left a firm impression on him. Bianchi joined the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2009 and had been tipped to become a future Ferrari F1 star before his tragic accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix when he later succumbed to his injures.

“I was probably 11 or 12 and it was with Jules Bianchi, I actually arrived in the city but I couldn’t enter Ferrari yet as I didn’t have the pass to go in,” Leclerc said. “I remember watching at the Ferrari facilities from the outside and being very impressed and dreaming of being in there one day. Now, it is a bit easier for me to go into the factory.

“I joined in 2015 and what I can remember is that it was quite special. I went to Maranello with my father, I was very shy, very afraid.

“It was very impressive when we entered the gates. Two days later, they let us know that I was accepted in the Ferrari Drier Academy. It was a great day and a great moment in my career that’s allowed me to arrive where I am now.”