Ferrari Formula 1 junior driver Charles Leclerc runs away with the 2017 Formula 2 title with victory over Oliver Rowland in Jerez.
Charles Leclerc had a great season overall. On the race execution side he has always been very, very quick and the only low was the qualifying in Monza. There have been some personal lows for Leclerc in 2017, after losing his dad. So it must have been particularly special to win in Jerez and take the championship as a way of honouring his father to whom, it is reported that, he will dedicate the title.
It takes a team
At the end of the day it takes a team, engineers, mechanics and team managers, to win a championship and Leclerc works well within the Prema team. Like Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton in Formula 1 their testing prior to his contesting the Championship, particularly this winter, was reported to have resulted in them not being quick enough to win. But it’s the race that is the proof of the pudding and the team and Leclerc established themselves from the very first race. Even though Charles Leclerc is Champion he will still be working hard with Prema team in the remaining three races of the season.
Nonetheless a nail-biting finish in Jerez
Oliver Rowland and Artem Markelov did not make much headway in the Championship fight in the last three races. So coming into this latest race in Jerez where the Championship was his for the taking Leclerc had to concentrate hard and focus mostly on himself. Leclerc being human still had to deal with the pressure of knowing that Oliver Rowland was always ready to do battle. But at the final corner on lap 21, it did look as if he had his sixth win of the season easily within his grasp, despite Rowland putting in a series of fast times.
But when Santino Ferrucci and Nobuharu Matsushita skirmished on lap 32, putting Ferrucci out of the race, the safety car was sent out, erasing Leclerc’s advantage. After an interruption for three laps, Leclerc kept his lead at the restart – with Rowland having to overtake the lapped Sean Gelael. But Leclerc was visibly struggling for traction and the race to the finish became a close fight over three-laps. With Latifi and Fuoco – now within touching distance of making their revised tyre strategies work, the final stages were nail biting. But Leclerc held on victorious by just 0.2s. He now has a 68-point insurmountable lead over Rowland with three races remaining. The Championship is settled.
Barcelona was the turning point in the season
Barcelona where he had the pole was clearly the turning point for Leclerc this season. The reports on Leclerc prior to Barcelona were mixed – had there been some luck in the qualifying for Bahrain? Did the red flag disadvantage the competitors? Was the Prema team’s tyre management right? Likewise in race two strategy rather than pure pace was the decider. But in Barcelona the Prema team demonstrated their class and Leclerc conspicuously out-paced the field.
Highs and Lows
Reported highs and lows of the season for Leclerc was Baku as a high on the racing side; on the low side, Monaco, because obviously being at home and having not finished the race would have been heart-breaking for him.
Leclerc in Formula 1 next season?
With the superb skills he’s illustrated in 2017 in Formula 2, there is little doubt that Leclerc will be driving in F1 next year.
Italian newspaper Corrieredella Sera, reported Leclerc as saying “The big dream is to wear red and I hope that one day it will become reality. But I also think of everything, as long as it is F1.”
Not surprisingly he would appear to be keeping his options open. The options are likely Sauber or Ferrari. Ferrari is obviously the dream of any driver. If Ferrari will even have an opening, however, has yet to manifest itself. Kimi Raikkonen may yet keep his seat having put up some better performances recently.
All eyes on Leclerc though – destiny awaits!