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Charles Leclerc

Does Ferrari Le Mans success spark 'now or never' Leclerc fears?

As Ferrari take their first victory at Le Mans, should Charles Leclerc consider racing in the famous 24-hour endurance race before thinking about F1 titles?

Ferrari le mans victory
Article
To news overview © XPBimages

As Ferrari took their first Le Mans outright race victory in over 50 years, their Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc looked on in the garage.

It's not uncommon for F1 drivers to attend Le Mans as spectators, especially when it does not clash with any races on the expanding Grand Prix calendar. Leclerc was there as a guest of honour and revealed his dreams of one day competing in the event in a post-race interview.

He also showed that he was doing more than spectating, speaking about the problem Ferrari identified with the sister #50 car which put them out of contention for the win or a podium.

It is remarkable that Ferrari could rock up at Le Mans after its decades-long absence from the top category and take the outright win which has been monopolised by Toyota for five years. The Hypercar regulations - coupled with the cost cap in F1 - will likely ensure that Ferrari has a future in the top sportscar class for years to come.

So if ever there was a time for the Monegasque to consider his chances of winning one of the most illustrious races in motorsport, it's probably now.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Alonso proves that it can be done

The last driver to contest both F1 and Le Mans in the same season was Fernando Alonso, which led to victory with Toyota in 2018.

At the same time he was dealing with the closing stages of the messy McLaren-Honda arrangement in F1, so it would have been a lot easier to focus entirely on a project that is proven to succeed.

Alonso's experience and obsession with racing also helps in this case, as in the previous year he also contested the Indy 500 in an attempt at the achieving the famous 'triple crown' of race wins.

Leclerc's last few seasons at Ferrari have largely been fraught with the same reliability issues and challenges as Alonso, albeit with a better hope of winning races and achieving podiums rather than grid penalties.

But becoming a proven race-winner at Le Mans might be enough to stop him from moving to other teams in F1, should the team still believe in his abilities to claim their first Drivers' title since 2007.

			© Alfa Romeo
	© Alfa Romeo

Fellow drivers achieve more success

The #51 Ferrari crossed the line at Circuit de la Sarthe after being driven for 24 hours at the hands of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and former F1 driver Antonio Giovinazzi.

The team has been loyal to most of their GTE drivers when choosing the lineup of their Hypercar attack, while Giovinazzi was given the drive off the back of his Test and Reserve role for Ferrari's F1 team.

As many pointed out, Giovinazzi's victory at Le Mans means Leclerc is the only driver who raced for Sauber in F1 between 2018 and 2021 to not win a major motorsport championship or event.

2018-2021 Alfa Romeo drivers success

Driver Race/Championship win Year
Kimi Raikkonen F1 Drivers' World Championship 2007
Marcus Ericsson Indy 500 2022 (runner up in 2023)
Antonio Giovinazzi Le Mans 24 Hours 2023

Marcus Ericsson was the 2022 Indy 500 champion (and came close this year), while Kimi Raikkonen was already F1 World Champion with Ferrari when he saw out his career at Alfa Romeo.

By contrast Leclerc's last title was the 2017 Formula 2 championship, with his biggest race win in F1 arguably being the 2019 Italian Grand Prix at Monza with Ferrari.

The 'Lecurse' has largely prevented him from taking a home victory at the Monaco Grand Prix, while this year miscommunication with his team led to a grid drop and another miserable weekend around the streets of the principality.

Is Leclerc at break point with his age?

With Leclerc reaching 26 years-old by the end of this season, you have to consider whether he is at the break point in his career in terms of achievements.

If one looks at the last 13 years in F1, only two drivers have taken a first F1 title over the age of 25; Jenson Button (29) and Nico Rosberg (31). Both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were 23 years-old, while Max Verstappen was 24 years-old when they won their first titles.

Given the rate at which Red Bull is winning races at the moment, you could argue that Ferrari's driver success might not come until 2026 at the earliest - by which point Leclerc will be 29.

Hamilton and Michael Schumacher have proven that it is possible to go well into your 30s and still achieve F1 titles, but it makes it a lot easier when you have already had your breakthrough year - as Mark Webber demonstrated when up against Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull.

It's all hypothetical of course, Ferrari is more likely to enable Leclerc to challenge for titles in F1 before 2026. But their success in Le Mans acts as more than just a lure for Leclerc to stay away from other teams who might come knocking on the door for his services before then.

When do you think Leclerc should tackle Le Mans? Discuss in our comments section below.

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