The hype surrounding Sauber F1 Team’s Charles Leclerc hit a rough road when his Formula 1 career started on a rather patchy note, but his breakthrough result in Baku turned his season to a fruitful one so far.
The Monegasque’s best result was 12th in the first three races, but not only he scored his first points in Round 4 in Azerbaijan, he finished an impressive sixth to register his best result of his short F1 career so far.
Prior to the Azerbaijan GP, Leclerc had been overdoing things admittedly but rectified some of those errors for that race along with a changed set-up, resulting in improved performance. Since then, he has scored in four of the five races to be with 13 points.
“To be honest I had very difficult first three weekends this season but then we really did a step in Baku with the approach of the setup especially,” he said. “I was asking something completely wrong to the engineers in these first three weekends, and then it went a lot better.
“I think it [was a] combination of what I was asking of the car, that was completely wrong, and then you are in quite a negative spiral where the car is very difficult to drive, so you try to push more, and you do more errors, and everything is going quite badly.
“Then, when I understood which balance I wanted in this car, when I arrived in Baku and went with a much more stable balance, especially for the city track, and then we kept that for the rest of the season.
“And that went in a good direction, also for me, because I could push the limit. It was easier to feel the limit. And then we worked on that and it made a big step for me also because it was just easier to drive.
“So, yeah, for now it is going very, very well, and we just need to keep working like that. It’s great to see the hard work of the team and that it pays off on the track. It’s not like we’re having a revolutionary change and upgrades.
“But any time we’ve put something on the car it went in the right direction. We’ve seen that on track and it’s not always a given [the upgrades] in Formula One. Sometimes you bring something and it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do on track.
“So, the team’s doing a great job on that, and they are giving me a car that is easy to drive also. So, everything is going good.” Post his third successive points finish and his sixth consecutive Q2 result in Austria, Leclerc was still not ‘high’ on confidence.
The Ferrari junior admitted that he has made mistakes in Paul Ricard and even in Austria, which he needs to rectify to become a full driver. He has been rumoured to have already agreed to drive for Ferrari in 2019, but for now he’s not thinking far ahead.
“It’s obviously very interesting to be part of this project [with Sauber],” he said. “We are growing races after races. They are bringing packages and we keep going more and more to the front, so that’s good to see.
“Then yeah, we’ll have to see for next year. We’ll have to see what other opportunities I get. And then we’ll see. For now, I’m really focusing on this year. Trying to develop the car, like we did.
“It’s [the results] above expectations, what we are doing for now. As a team I don’t think we thought we would develop as good as we are now. So, that’s great to see, and then we’ll see next year.”