Fans of the Monaco Grand Prix, who hail from the principality, have become accustomed to watching one of their own, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who was born in Monaco, compete in the race.
There will be two locals at this year’s event, as Arthur Leclerc, Charles’ younger brother, is racing there in Formula 2 on Saturday.
“It’s a track I went to really young with my parents,” Arthur said. “I have really early memories in Monaco watching F1 and my only dream was to be in their shoes and drive F1 in Monaco. I don’t drive in Formula 1, I drive in Formula 2, but it’s a dream come true. It’s exciting.”
Arthur, 22, is the younger brother of Charles, 25, who drives a Ferrari and was the runner-up for the 2022 Drivers’ Championship.
“I’ve been very impressed with how Arthur has developed as a driver,” said Charles. “F2 is the last step before F1, so if he does well he can dream of the biggest things he can achieve.
Arthur moved up to Formula 2 five years after starting his single-seater career, following a few years of karting as a youngster.
He and Charles were immersed in motorsport from an early age, a passion instilled by their father Hervé, who had raced in national Formula 3 championships since the 1980s. He died in 2017.
Arthur said they will watch the Grands Prix at home and “go straight to the PlayStation for a Formula 1 game to try and reproduce what [the drivers] we do.”
He also recalled driving to Brignoles, France, to a go-kart facility owned by family friends of the Bianchis. Jules Bianchi was Charles’ godfather and a Formula 1 pilot who he died in 2015 after the crash.
“We were together very often, whenever there was a weekend or a Wednesday afternoon after school,” Charles said. “We would go karts with Jules. my older brother [Lorenzo]; Jules’ brother, Tom; Arthur; and some other friends, and those remain the best memories I have of the sport.”
Arthur started racing karts at the age of 8 in France, but rarely.
“We didn’t really have the money to continue,” he said. “There was an option to go with my brother. [or] me,” and his brother was chosen. “Charles was on a much higher level,” Arthur said.
The family’s decision to support Charles’ career financially where they could was a decision Arthur accepted, but still found it difficult to accept. He returned to racing in his teens when his father “managed to find a bit of money” for some items and won the Kart Racing Academy title in 2014, but still only raced occasionally.
But at the end of 2017, his family arranged a one-day Formula 4 test for him with the Prema Racing junior team at Adria International Raceway in Italy.
“If I did it wrong, then obviously I would think of doing something else; If I was good, maybe we would [a career] try it,” said Arthur. “I was shaking like crazy before this test because I knew I had one chance to convince them to go ahead. It went really well.”
“I was already quite comfortable in the car, despite spending so much time away from racing,” he recalled, adding that before that day his experience driving race cars “was only in computer games.”
Arthur raced in French Formula 4 in 2018, its German counterpart in 2019 and joined Ferrari’s young driver academy in 2020. He switched to Formula 3, won several races and was in close contention for the title in 2022, but finished sixth.
“My first year I lacked a bit of experience,” 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 one 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 is now seventh in the championship race with one podium finish.
“I’m happy and not happy, I think we can be better,” Arthur said. “The positive point is the consistency, we have improved the consistency a lot, we have 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 previous seasons, Formula 2 teams will race on Formula 1 tracks 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 explaining. “It’s not that I try not to give him advice, I always try to be helpful. On the other hand, I want him to grow up in this sport on his own because that’s the approach my father had for me. I think that was something that was very important and helped me a lot, so I try to approach it the same way. But he knows he can call me anytime and ask me anything and I’ll always be there for him.”
Brothers often get nervous watching each other race.
“I’m a lot more nervous watching Arthur race than I am when I’m racing myself, just because I’m not thinking about any of the dangers when I’m racing,” Charles said. “Every time my brother is there, it’s a completely different story, because then I realize that sometimes things can go wrong, and when you have someone you love in the car, then of course it’s a different feeling.”
It’s the same with his brother.
“I’m a lot more nervous watching his races than mine,” he said. “In a car that you drive yourself, you are the driver of your own future. When I see him driving and fighting really close, there’s obviously a lot of stress in that.”
Arthur’s goal is to get into Formula 1.
“I’ve been watching F1 since I was a kid,” he said, “so it’s obviously the No. 1 goal.”