Charles Leclerc's near-flawless performance at Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix marked out the Monegasque as Formula One's newest force to be reckoned with. The 21-year-old Ferrari driver was fastest in all but one session of track action, seized pole by a comfortable margin and was cruising to an easy victory when engine trouble struck 10 laps from the end, leaving him third.
If Lewis Hamilton was the one celebrating an unexpected victory, the five-times world champion and his Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff were left in no doubt that Leclerc had made a statement. "I think we're seeing a young champion-in-the-making who was the emotional winner today," said Wolff. "Fastest man and fastest machine."
Leclerc replaced Ferrari's 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen at the end of last season in a gamble for a team generally known for picking experienced drivers over talented newcomers. But the youngest Ferrari race driver since 1961 proved he has what it takes to handle the weight of expectation that comes with driving for the sport's most successful and glamorous team. He even excelled more than four-time champion team mate Sebastian Vettel, with the German enduring a scrappy evening that left him fifth after a spin and a lost front wing.