Formula One star Charles Leclerc’s stock is rising in the sport and with that enhanced reputation comes the unwanted side of fame, after he had his luxury watch stolen on Monday.
The Ferrari driver was in the Tuscan city of Viareggio with his friends and trainer, Andrea Ferrari, on Easter Monday when the incident occurred. Local reports in the region claim Leclerc had his prized Richard Mille watch worth $320,000 (£246,000) taken from him after being surrounded by fans.
The 24-year-old, who was in Tuscany ahead of this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, was recognised by a group of people when he entered Via Salvatori at around 10pm and they proceeded to approach the Monegasque. Amidst the crowd of people in a poorly lit area, the unidentified thief took their opportunity to unhook Leclerc’s watch and escape before he realised it had gone. Leclerc reported the incident to police and the matter is now being investigated.
It marks a low moment in an otherwise superb start to the season for the F1 championship leader, who has won two of the first three races of the 2022 season. His rise to the top has been predicted for some time in F1, but now the Monegasque is fulfilling his full potential in a competitive car and has the contract to back it up.
He penned a five-year contract that takes him to the end of the 2024 season after wowing the team in 2019. But his current salary, estimated by Forbes to have risen to $12m (£9.2m) in 2021, has been dwarfed by his championship rivals and his net worth of £12m is nearly 20 times smaller than Lewis Hamilton’s £202m fortune.
Leclerc is comfortably behind Hamilton, who was the top earner in F1 in 2021 with a $55m-a-year (£42.2m) base salary and an extra £5m in race win bonuses. He will soon be eclipsed by Max Verstappen, whose new mega deal with Red Bull takes him to the same bracket as Hamilton on £40m-a-year.
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After getting his big break in F1 with Sauber in 2018, Leclerc’s impressive results in a car that was viewed by many as a midfield car at best raised some eyebrows. It was not long before Ferrari took notice of the rising star and after Kimi Raikkonen’s contract expired, Leclerc was brought in.
He soon began challenging Sebastian Vettel for the top seat in the team and clinched two race victories in his debut season with the team in 2019. The team’s difficulties in 2020 meant the Scuderia finished seventh in the Championship, but Leclerc was confident the Italian manufacturer would roar back.
And so it has proved in 2022. Ferrari have been ahead of the curve with their time spent in the wind tunnel after F1’s significant regulation changes including aerodynamic alterations and budget caps. If he continues in this winning fashion, Leclerc will surely earn another bumper pay rise if he can lead the Scuderia to their first drivers' crown since 2007.
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