Young, fast, cold-headed. Already since the lower categories Charles Leclerc has proved to be a mature and complete driver. The #16 has won the GP3 championship (nowdays known as Formula 3) in his rookie season back in 2016, going back to back with a triumph in Formula 2 in his debut year.
2017 has been the year that has elevated Leclerc among the brightest future stars of Formula 1: not only he was straight away able to carry some impressive speed, not only his race pace has been outstanding since the very beginning, not only he's been flawless for the entirety of his rookie season. He has also proved to be a real machine once he pulls the helmet's visor down.
In the June of 2017, just a couple of days before the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Charles' father Hervé passed away following a serious illness.
Former Formula 3 driver, Hervé introduced his son to the racing world, becoming a key figure for Charles not only family-wise but also for his career.
Leclerc was devastated: the death of close friend Jules Bianchi was a scar yet to be healed and at that point another inspiring person had just left him.
He was only 19 back in the days, but as soon as he put his visor down he pushed his Prema car to poleposition. Not only that: in Baku -circuit he had never raced in before- he even managed to win the Feature Race and take a second place in race two storming through the field.
"Just before my father died I told him I had signed for Ferrari. That was a lie and I feel bad about it, but I know he left us proud of me" stated Charles straight after having stipulated a contract with the Maranello team later that year. In those two occasions Leclerc has proved to have a mental strenght uncommon even among the veterans of the Circus and -I'll say it again- he was only 19 years old.
The following year, in 2018, he debuted in Formula 1 in the Alfa Romeo's line-up. After a couple of difficult races he was able to adapt quite quickly to the new car and put on some impressive performances. That was enough for Ferrari to give him the famous red-painted car for the 2019 season.
At the very beginning of the year, Charles has shown to not be affected by the massive ammount of pressure that driving for Ferrari always brings. If someone still had doubts about his talent and his mentality, all of them were wiped out just on the second race of the season, when Leclerc become the youngest polesitter in Maranello's history. Not just that: the following day he gave up a sure win only because of an engine failure occurred in the final stages of the race.
Leclerc wasn't anymore a rising star. He was a star.
Something though that has differenciated him from all the other champions was the fairplay he has had thoughout the entirety of his racing career. Being nice is not something that helps you winning championships and Max Verstappen was there to teach him the hard way.
2019 Austrian Grand Prix: after having started on pole for the second time this season, Leclerc led almost every lap of the race, until a victory-starving Max Verstappen spoiled the party. With three laps to go, the Dutchman wheel-banged Leclerc to take first place at he end of an epic comeback. The move was put under investigation, but no further action was taken.
"If that's the way we are supposed to race, I'm in" said an angry Leclerc, turning around his racing mindset in just a matter of days.
Then it came Silverstone: the two young prodigies found themselves fighting for position again, but this time Verstappen was not going to pass.
Leclerc put on some very aggressive defence moves, with some of them even over the borderline. Max Verstappen, one of the best overtakers on the grid, couldn't find a way through. Two things were immediately clear: spectators were witnessing a duel that was going to rewrite history books and that Leclerc wasn't the driver we all used to know anymore.
In Monza Leclerc has played a game familiar to many world champions such as Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg: he prevented another driver -in this case team-mate Sebastian Vettel- from going for a qualifying lap to secure his own pole position. He didn't park the car on track as Schumacher and Rosberg did and neither in the pitlane like Alonso in Hungary 2007: Charles just slowed down enough to make sure Vettel would have taken the checkerd flag.
Sunday's harsh defence on Hamilton at Della Roggia chicane has been another proof of Leclerc's transformation. Not being just over the line was the only element of Charles left that separated him from basically every Formula 1 legend in his young days.
The kid is now ready.