After a stunning debut season in Formula 1 for Charles Leclerc, the Monegasque driver has claimed the FIA Rookie of the Year award for the second year in a row at the FIA Prize Giving in Saint Petersburg.
Leclerc becomes the only driver in the award’s short history (it was launched in 2014) to win the prize twice, having previously claimed it for securing the 2017 Formula 2 title in his first and only season in the category before stepping up to Formula 1.
Any driver who has completed their first season in an FIA championship is eligible for the award, meaning that Leclerc was crowned ahead of drivers from series as diverse as the World Endurance Championship, the World Rally Championship and the CIK Karting KF World Championship.
It comes after a year that saw Leclerc initially struggle to get on top of the demands of driving F1 machinery, before the 21-year-old went on to put in some momentous performances for the much-improved Sauber squad, highlights being his sixth place in Azerbaijan, as well as a trio of season-ending seventh places in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
His 10 points-scoring finishes of the season were the most for a Sauber driver in Formula 1’s post-2014 hybrid era, while Leclerc’s scintillating rookie performance ultimately saw him handed a drive with Ferrari for 2019 alongside Sebastian Vettel.
Addressing the FIA Prize Giving ceremony via a video screen, Leclerc, suffering with an ear infection that prevented him travelling to Russia, told the crowd: “[I’m] extremely grateful to be receiving the… Rookie of the Year award for the second year in a row.
“These last two years have been amazing and this first year in Formula 1 has been great. It was very difficult in the first few races to get used to these cars, but after that, it has been great, with an amazing team behind me that has pushed me all year long and that has [taught] me all the basics of Formula 1. So yeah, really looking forward to the next challenges ahead and see you soon on track.”
Leclerc will now spend the winter preparing to step into Kimi Raikkonen’s shoes at Ferrari. It’s a role the young Monegasque knows will come with added pressure – but given how he’s handled his first year in Formula 1, few would bet against Leclerc succeeding.