F1: Charles Leclerc not feeling the pressure ahead of Ferrari move

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Pressure does not seem to affect Charles Leclerc, which is just as well given where his career is taking him.

The 21-year-old driver from Monaco has earned a prestigious move to Ferrari following strong performances for unheralded Sauber in his debut Formula One season.

Leclerc will race alongside four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel in 2019 at Ferrari. Vettel has 52 wins and 111 podiums, but Leclerc is expected to be free to compete evenly against the German driver.

Along with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen – who is the same age – Leclerc is tipped to follow Lewis Hamilton and Vettel as F1’s next stars.

Leclerc won last year’s F2 championship at the first attempt, fast-tracking him into F1 and casting him into the spotlight. But by his own admission, he made errors as he forced the car too much on track, finishing 13th, 12th and 19th in his first three races.

“I remember when I made mistakes three weekends in a row it seemed like an eternity,” Leclerc told The Associated Press on the Sauber motorhome rooftop at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. “From the outside it didn’t go unnoticed either and people were asking questions of me.”

Asked if he is affected by any questioning of him, Leclerc replied firmly.

“No, not at all,” he said, “It doesn’t get to me.”

A veneer of confidence can be quickly exposed in the hard-nosed world of elite competition. But Leclerc speaks without a hint of arrogance and in precise sentences woven around an immense inner belief. One of Leclerc’s strengths, and a key reason why Ferrari rates him highly, is a capacity for self-appraisal. Leclerc did not hide from his errors but embraced them and worked through them.

“I don’t have many regrets because, even in the weekends things went badly, that’s when I learnt the most,” he told the AP. “They helped me become the driver I am now. I learned the mistakes you shouldn’t make in Formula One.”

Leclerc has already experienced a lot of emotional turmoil – losing his father and his close friend Jules Bianchi – and those setbacks forged a remarkably strong mental strength.

Last year in F2, Leclerc took pole position and won in Baku, Azerbaijan, shortly after the death of his father. That was only two years after losing his childhood friend Bianchi, the highly rated French driver who died in July 2015 at the age of 25 from head injuries sustained in a collision during the 2014 Japanese GP.

Adversity helped Leclerc withstand other pressures and develop a clinical perspective.

“It’s obvious I wasn’t in a comfortable position because people were expecting big things from me straight away in my first races,” he said. “I knew in my head this wasn’t realistic because Formula 1 really is very different from Formula 2. After that things clicked.”

Leclerc bounced back with an impressive sixth place at the next race in Baku and then secured top-10 finishes in four of the next five.

He underlined his consistency in one of the weaker cars on the grid – Sauber finished eighth out of 10 teams in the constructors’ championship – by finishing in the points in 10 of 21 races.

His more experienced teammate, Marcus Ericsson, scored only nine points compared with Leclerc’s 39.

Leclerc was voted driver of the race after finishing seventh at the Russian GP, and qualified in in eighth place at the French GP and the Brazilian GP.

“There were key moments in the year, because we hadn’t expected to be so competitive,” said Leclerc, who finished seventh in his final race for Sauber on Sunday and 13th overall in the championship. Veteran Kimi Raikkonen is leaving Ferrari to replace Leclerc at Sauber.

Leclerc first tested his driving skills at age 3+ on a karting track owned by Bianchi’s father, a friend of Leclerc’s father. Early promise quickly materialized when Leclerc won the 2009 French championship and then he later took on Verstappen, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon in karting.

All are now promising F1 drivers and could again become Leclerc’s rivals in coming years.

Before that, Leclerc begins testing with Ferrari next week.

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IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta: How to watch, start times, schedule, entry list

AUTO: NOV 13 IMSA - Motul Petit Le Mans
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Start times, TV schedule: The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will conclude the 2022 season this weekend with the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta, which also will mark the end of the line for the DPi class.

The premier Daytona Prototype international category, which started in 2017, will be replaced by the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with its LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to Le Mans.

For the third time in four years, an Acura will be crowned the champion in DPi as the No. 10 of Wayne Taylor Racing holds a 19-point edge over the No. 60 of Meyer Shank Racing.

Last year, WTR’s No. 10 entered the season finale with a 19-point lead but lost the title to the No. 31 Cadillac of Action Express.

Full-time WTR drivers Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor (who will be joined by Brendon Hartley in the No. 10 this weekend) have a series-leading four victories this season. The MSR duo of Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves this weekend) won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and have five runner-up finishes this year.

Championship scenarios in the other four categories:

GTD Pro: Points leaders Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet will clinch the title by starting in their No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

–GTD: There are 140 points separating the top four teams with Roman De Angelis and the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 leading by 45 points.

–LMP2: John Farano is first in the driver standings by 33 points over Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel. In the team standings, the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports leads by 19 points over the No. 8 Tower Motorsport (Farano’s team).

–LMP3: No. 54 CORE autosport drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun lead by 83 points over the No. 74 Riley Motorsports of Gar Robinson.

With the 10-hour race requiring an extra driver, several stars from other racing series have been added. In addition to Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay will serve as third drivers in Chip Ganassi Racing’s pair of Cadillacs.

Jimmie Johnson also will be making his last DPi start in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac with Mike Rockenfeller and Kamui Kobayashi. Petit Le Mans could mark the last start in an IMSA prototype for Johnson, who has said limited inventory likely will keep him out of the GTP category in the Rolex 24 next year.

Here are the start times, starting lineup, schedule and TV info for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta (all times are ET):


Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta start times, schedule, TV info

When: Saturday, 12:10 p.m. ET

Race distance: Ten hours on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course

TV: Noon-3 p.m., NBC; 3-10:30 p.m., USA Network. Peacock, the NBC Sports App,and NBCSports.com will have streaming coverage of the event from flag to flag beginning at noon. Leigh Diffey and Dave Burns are the play by play announcers with analysts Calvin Fish, Townsend Bell, James Hinchcliffe and Brian Till. The pit reporters are Kevin Lee, Hannah Newhouse, Dillon Welch and Matt Yocum.

IMSA.com live TV qualifying stream: Friday, 3:35 p.m. ET.

IMSA Radio: All sessions are live on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com; SiriusXM live race coverage will begin Saturday at noon (XM 207, Internet/App 992).

Forecast: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 63 degrees with an 85% chance of rain at the green flag.

Entry list: Click here to see the 48-car field for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta


Daily schedule IMSA Petit Le Mans

Here’s a rundown of the Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia:

Wednesday, Sept. 28

9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

10:25 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup

12:30 p.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

1:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practcice

2 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup practice

3:30 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

Thursday, Sept. 29

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

9 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup qualifying

9:50 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

11:40 a.m.: Prototype Challenge qualifying

12:10 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

1:50 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

2:55 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

5 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 1

6 p.m.: Michelin Challenge qualifying

7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

Friday, Sept. 30

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge race

9:50 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:55 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 2

1:10 p.m.: IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race

3:40 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying

Saturday, Oct. 1

9:15 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:10 p.m.: Petit Le Mans