Charles Leclerc and his brother Arthur return to racing in Monaco

Monaco Grand Prix fans from the principality have grown accustomed to seeing one of their own, Monaco-born Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, take part in the race.

At this year’s event there will be two locals, as Arthur Leclerc, Charles’ younger brother, will race there in Formula 2 on Saturday.

“It’s a track I went to when I was very young with my parents,” Arthur said. “I have very early memories of Monaco when I was watching Formula 1, and my only dream was to be in their shoes and drive Formula 1 in Monaco. I don’t drive Formula 1, I drive Formula 2 , but it’s a dream come true. It’s exciting.”

Arthur, 22, is the younger brother of Charles, 25, who drives for Ferrari and was runner-up in the 2022 Drivers’ Championship.

“I was very impressed with how Arthur developed as a driver,” Charles said. “F2 is the last step before F1, so if he is successful he can dream of the bigger things to achieve.”

Arthur moved to Formula 2 five years after starting his career in single-seaters, after a few years of karting as a youth.

He and Charles were steeped in motorsport from an early age, the passion instilled by their father Hervé, who competed in national Formula 3 championships from the 1980s. He died in 2017.

Arthur said they would watch the Grands Prix at home and “go straight to PlayStation on the Formula 1 game to try and replicate what [the drivers] were doing.”

He also remembers driving in Brignoles, France, to the go-kart facility owned by family friends, the Bianchis. Jules Bianchi was Charles’ godfather and a Formula 1 driver who died in 2015 after an accident.

“We were together very often, whenever there was a weekend or a Wednesday afternoon after school,” Charles said. “We were go-karts with Jules; my older brother [Lorenzo]; Jules’ brother, Tom; Arthur; and a few other friends, and these remain the best memories I have of this sport.

Arthur started karting at 8 years old in France but rarely.

“We didn’t really have the money to continue,” he said. “There was a choice, go with my brother [or] myself,” and his brother was chosen. “Charles was on a much higher level,” Arthur said.

The choice of the family, to financially support Charles’ career where they could, was a decision Arthur accepted but still found difficult to make. He returned to racing as a teenager when his father “managed to find some money” for some entries, and he won the Kart Racing Academy title in 2014, but he still only competed occasionally.

But at the end of 2017, his family arranged for him to do a one-day Formula 4 test with junior team Prema Racing at Adria International Raceway in Italy.

“If I had done wrong, then obviously I would have thought of doing something else; if i was good then maybe we would give [a career] a try,” Arthur said. “I was shaking like crazy before this test, because I knew I had a chance to convince them to continue. It went very well.

“I already felt quite comfortable in the car, despite the time spent without racing,” he recalls, adding that before that day, his experience driving race cars was “only on games computers”.

Arthur raced in French Formula 4 in 2018, his German counterpart in 2019, and in 2020 he joined Ferrari’s young driver academy. He moved up to Formula 3, won several races and was in a close title fight in 2022 but finished sixth.

“I was a bit lacking in experience in my freshman year,” Arthur said. “All last year I fought for the title, in the last race I could still win the championship, everything was decided in one race. It was a shame that the championship ended like this, because a race does not reflect the championship, but that’s how it is.

He then moved to Formula 2 for the 2023 season, with the DAMS team, and he is now in seventh place in the championship race, with only one place on the podium.

“I’m happy and not happy, I think we can do better,” Arthur said. “The positive thing is the consistency, we improved the consistency enormously, we finished most of the races in the points, but in terms of pure performance we would like to be a bit more competitive.”

This year, as in past seasons, Formula 2 teams will race on Formula 1 circuits during Grand Prix weekends. The brothers share advice, especially on circuit tips or track conditions.

“I try not to give him too much advice,” Charles said, before clarifying. “It’s not like I try not to give him advice, I always try to be helpful. On the other hand, I want him to grow up on his own in this sport, because that’s the approach that my dad had for me. I think it was something that was very important and helped me a lot, so I try to have a similar approach to him. But he knows he can call me n anytime and ask me anything, and I will always be there for him.

The brothers often become anxious when watching each other run.

“I get a lot more nervous watching Arthur run than when I run myself, just because when I run I don’t think of any of the dangers,” Charles said. “It’s a very different story every time my brother is there, because then I realize things can go wrong sometimes, and when you have someone you love in that car, then, of course, it’s a different feeling.”

It’s the same with his brother.

“I get a lot more nervous watching his races than mine,” he said. “In the car, you control yourself, you control your own future. When I see him driving and fighting up close, there’s obviously a lot of stress.

Arthur’s goal is to enter Formula 1.

“Since I was a kid I’ve watched F1,” he said, “so obviously that’s the No. 1 goal.”

nytimes sport

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