Charles Leclerc has taken a step closer to participating in a Formula 1 practice session with Haas later this season following his debut run in a Ferrari.
Leclerc, appointed to the Ferrari Driver Academy earlier this year, completed the requisite 300 kilometers in a 2014 car at Fiorano as part of his application towards a free-practice-only superlicense. The 18-year-old from Monaco, who will be competing this year in GP3 with ART Grand Prix, took to the track in the wet before conditions improved and he was able to use the hard, medium and soft Pirelli demo tires.
Given Haas’s links to Ferrari, the aim for Leclerc is a run in an FP1 session with Haas toward the end of the year.
“I think it will be this year,” Academy boss Massimo Rivola said when asked about the likelihood of a free practice outing for Leclerc. “I’m not really talking to him about that because he knows his focus is to fight for the GP3 championship, which is the main target.
“This [the FP1 run] is not a stress. If it happens, then fine, and it’s likely it will happen. If it comes, then I would prefer it to be toward the end of the season, because then he will be completely ready.
“One of the risks with these young kids is if they start thinking about Formula 1 then they will lose focus, but I have every confidence in him.”
Overall, Rivola was impressed with how Leclerc conducted himself and handled the F1 car in a variety of conditions and on different tires.
“Before jumping in the car I told him he didn’t have to show us his talent,” added Rivola. “I’m already aware of his talent, so he needed to show us he is someone we can count on for many different types of work, such as the simulator, for example.
“For a young driver he has a good head on his shoulders, and not many drivers have that, so that was the first target for him. Overall he did a very good job, he showed he was quick, and there were no noticeable mistakes.
“On the different sets of tires he felt the difference in grip, and his performance improved. I spoke to him at the end of the day and he couldn’t stop thanking me. He told me it was the best day of his life. It’s so nice to work with guys like that.”
WHAT IS A FREE-PRACTICE-ONLY SUPERLICENSE?
This allows an up-and-coming young driver to take part in a free practice session at a Formula 1 grand prix weekend, without the need to meet the criteria for a full F1 superlicense.
In terms of qualifications, in the first instance a driver must be in possession of a FIA International Grade A license, and a valid driving license when applying. [Max Verstappen did not have the latter when he jumped into F1.]
The driver must also be 18 at the start of his first F1 race weekend [again that was not the case with Verstappen].
The first time an application is made, the driver must successfully complete a question session regarding the most important points of the International Sporting Code and the F1 Sporting Regulations. The driver must also be judged by the FIA to have consistently demonstrated outstanding ability in single-seater cars, while the F1 team concerned must show the applicant has driven at least 300km in a representative F1 car consistently at racing speeds.
Once obtained, the driver will be on probation for a period of 12 months, during which the license will be held provisionally and subject to review at any time.