Monaco Grand Prix fans who are from the principality have become accustomed to watching one of their own, Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, who was born in Monaco, compete in the race.
At this year’s event, there will be two locals, as Arthur Leclerc, Charles’s younger brother, races there in Formula 2 on Saturday.
“It’s a track where I was going really young with my parents,” Arthur said. “I have really early memories in Monaco when I was looking at Formula 1, and my only dream was to be in their place and to drive in Formula 1 in Monaco. I’m not driving in Formula 1, I’m driving in Formula 2, but it’s a dream coming true. It’s exciting.”
Arthur, 22, is the younger brother of Charles, 25, who drives for Ferrari and was the runner-up for the 2022 drivers’ championship.
“I’ve been very impressed with how Arthur has developed as a driver,” Charles said. “F2 is the last step before F1, so if he does well, he can dream of the biggest things to achieve.”
Arthur has progressed to Formula 2 five years after starting his single-seater career, following a few years of karting as a youngster.
He and Charles were steeped in motorsport from an early age, the passion instilled by their father Hervé, who competed in national level Formula 3 championships starting in the 1980s. He died in 2017.
Arthur said they would watch Grands Prix at home and would “go straight on the PlayStation on the Formula 1 game to try and reproduce what [the drivers] were doing.”
He also recalled driving to Brignoles, France, to the karting facility owned by family friends, the Bianchis. Jules Bianchi was the godfather of Charles and a Formula 1 driver who died in 2015 after a crash.
“We were very often together, whenever there was a weekend or a Wednesday afternoon after school,” Charles said. “We’d kart with Jules; my older brother [Lorenzo]; Jules’ brother, Tom; Arthur; and some other friends, and that remains the best memories that I have in this sport.”
Arthur started competing in karting at age 8 in France but only infrequently.
“We didn’t really have the money to continue,” he said. “There was a choice, to go with my brother [or] myself,” and his brother was chosen. “Charles was in a much higher level,” Arthur said.
The family’s choice, to support Charles’ career financially where they could, was a decision that Arthur accepted but still found tough to take. He returned to racing in his teens when his father “managed to find a bit of money” for some entries, and he won the Kart Racing Academy title in 2014, but he still only competed occasionally.
But in late 2017, his family arranged for him to do a one-day Formula 4 test with the junior team Prema Racing at Adria International Raceway in Italy.
“If I did badly, then obviously I would have thought to do something else; if I was good, then maybe we would give [a career] a try,” Arthur said. “I was shaking like crazy prior to this test, as I knew I had one shot to convince them to continue. It went really well.”
“I felt already quite comfortable in the car, despite spending so much time without racing,” he remembered, adding that, before that day, his experience driving racecars was “only on computer games.”
Arthur raced in French Formula 4 in 2018, its German counterpart in 2019, and in 2020, he joined Ferrari’s young driver academy. He moved to Formula 3, won several races and was in a close title fight in 2022 but finished sixth.
“I was lacking a bit of experience in my first year,” Arthur said. “All last year I was battling for the title, in the last race I could still win the championship, it was all decided in one race. It was a shame that the championship finished like this, as one race doesn’t 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 race for the championship, with one finish on the podium.
“I’m happy and not happy, I think we can do better,” Arthur said. “The positive point is the consistency, we have improved massively the consistency, we have finished most races in the points, but then in terms of pure performance, we would like to be a bit more competitive.”
This year, as in seasons past, the Formula 2 teams will race at Formula 1 tracks during Grand Prix weekends. The brothers share advice, particularly on circuit tips or track conditions.
“I try to not give him too much advice,” Charles said, before clarifying. “It’s not like I try not giving him advice, I always try to be helpful. On the other hand, I want him to grow alone in this sport, as it’s the approach that my father had for me. I think it was something that was very important and that has helped me a lot, so I’m trying to have a similar approach towards him. But he knows that he can call me whenever and ask me whatever, and I will always be here for him.”
The brothers often get anxious when they watch each other race.
“I’m much more nervous when I’m watching Arthur racing than when I am racing myself, just because when I’m racing I don’t think about any of the dangers,” Charles said. “It’s a very different story whenever my brother is there, because I then realize that things can go wrong sometimes, and when you’ve got somebody you love inside that car then, of course, it’s a different feeling.”
It is the same with his brother.
“I’m a lot more nervous when I watch his races than mine,” he said. “In the car you are controlling yourself, it’s you who controls your own future. When I see him driving and battling really close, there is obviously a lot of stress.”
The goal for Arthur is to make it into Formula 1.
“Since I was a kid I’ve watched F1,” he said, “so obviously it’s goal No. 1.”