Leclerc’s first pole in Bahrain: a star is born?
Ferrari’s new driver took just a couple races to put himself on top, as he will start the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix from pole position. Will he also be able to win his first Formula 1 race tomorrow? Is he “The Chosen One” the Tifosi were searching for?
Charles Leclerc left his mark on his second weekend with Ferrari, as he earned the best spot on the starting grid with an outstanding qualifying session. The Monegasque was the fastest man on track throughout all qualifying, constantly improving his lap time up to his final 1:27.866. He was the only man under the 1:28s, as he was three tenths of a second faster than his teammate Sebastian Vettel, for a Ferrari front-row lock-up.
Bahrain F1 Qualifying: Could Leclerc prevent Vettel capturing pole?
Leclerc’s journey to his first pole wasn’t easy but he was certainly a predestined one. As one of Ferrari Driver Academy’s future stars, as well as his close friend Jules Bianchi back in the days, he was 2016 GP3 sensation when he won the championship as a rookie with ART Grand Prix. In 2017 he was able to win F2 as a rookie as well, driving with the Italian team Prema Powerteam. Sergio Marchionne’s plan to refill Sauber F1 Team with Alfa Romeo brand was a perfect fit for Leclerc, as he had a stunning debut in the Circus with a midfield car - with a 6th place in Baku as a best result. There were single moments, as Brazil Grand Prix qualifying, when the Monaco driver’s pure talent was shining bright, so Ferrari took the chance to finally get a home-made driver.
Could this turn into a nightmare for Sebastian Vettel, with the German facing the shadow of an another 2014-like season? Back in the Red Bull days, in his last year of contract, he had to fight with a younger Ricciardo who was clearly eager to dethrone the four-time world champion. This time, Leclerc could repeat history putting himself in front of Vettel just after two races. It's hard to predict if he'd be able to beat his teammate during the whole season, but for sure that could lead Seb to search for another team - with Ricciardo and Alonso already waiting for a free spot.
After two very difficult years, fighting for the championship until the last few races, the Maranello-based squad was searching for a revolution to have a profound impact on the team environment. Late 2018 saw Maurizio Arrivabene, Alberto Antonini and Kimi Raikkonen leaving, with Simone Resta already headed to Alfa Romeo Racing. Charles Leclerc, under Mattia Binotto's guidance, can really become the man that italian Tifosi were searching for a long time. Bahrain Grand Prix can potentially be the start of this brand new journey.