Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc credits his team’s small improvements over the 2020 F1 season, as he rates as his best year despite those challenges.

Ferrari woefully underperformed in F1 2020, their lack of pace apparent immediately at the season opener, when Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel qualified an underwhelming seventh and 11th. Though pace was lacking in pre-season testing, such a performance deficit was not anticipated by pundits or fans.

Leclerc, though, says that he and Ferrari expected a difficult season based solely on testing. “It’s been a difficult season,” he said to media including F1, Motorsport Network, and more. “I think there are two sides of the season for me. Surely after Barcelona testing, I think we all knew that something was not quite right.

“I think as a team, we pushed each other to believe in it, to hope, which I think is a good thing in those situations, but also to work as hard as possible to try and come at the first race and to maximise what we had, which is what we did,” Leclerc said.

After this point, Leclerc says the team recognised the need to improve on the SF1000, and put in immense effort to develop the car, making small gains throughout the year, albeit presumably still directing some of their attention to 2021.

“I think during the season, even though it was very difficult to accept the situation after the first race, because the reality was obvious, we worked very hard, and we worked in a constructive way. And I think we improved from that moment onwards.

“It was small steps, but as I said, small steps in the right direction. And this is not always a given in Formula 1,” an appreciative Leclerc said, before adding that there were numerous lessons to be learned from a difficult campaign in 2020.

Leclerc also considered 2020 his best effort in the championship, adding to his satisfaction at the season’s end. “For the future, I think we’ve learned a lot from this season,” he started. “And I think that we will only come back stronger. I hope that we can show that on track next year. I don’t know how much of the big step we will do next year, but I’m sure that the step we will do will be in the right direction.

“For for myself, too, I think it’s my best season personally in Formula 1. I think what I’ve shown on track I’m very happy with my season. It’s not been an easy season, as I’ve said earlier, but personally, I feel like I’ve given my best. I’ve taken risks, that most of the time went positively, and made us gain a lot of points.

“On a few occasions it also didn’t happen the way I wanted. And we’ve lost few points. But I think on the other hand, the season has been very positive for my own performance. So that I’m very happy, and now I’m looking forward to next year, as I said, to see how much of a gain we will have,” Leclerc said.

Ferrari’s sporting director Laurent Mekies agreed with Leclerc’s characterisation of Ferrari’s improvement in 2020, arguing that gains were merely less noticeable given the teams’ position. He adds that their season was ‘a good example of what you can learn in time[s] of crisis’.

“Charles summarised it very, very well,” said Mekies. “It’s certainly a good example of what you can learn in time[s] of crisis, and it’s these sort of situations that you learn the most. I think what we take away is the ways the team has been able to stay united during this time, to still try to push as hard as we could, despite the known disappointing results.

“So as Charles explained there is a lot of small very significant achievements in the year, that were unnoticed because we were at the back. But it’s, again, it’s something that hopefully will make us stronger, and that we will carry on to the next year. So, in a nutshell, what we take from that is even in such hard time, in such globally difficult conditions, the way we have tried and pushed our limits I think is what we will take.

“As Charles say, when you are back there, you are down to take more risk, drivers are taking more risk, Charles had more risk, team takes more risk – strategy, not strategy – was a choice, because that’s what you have to do get a good result. So that’s sort of getting out of the comfort zone, if you can call it a comfort zone, certainly will make us stronger in the future.”

Here’s how drivers in 2020 performed in tier system

Here’s Charles Leclerc on Sebastian Vettel

Here’s the drivers’ Top 10 of 2020

Here’s stats difference from 2019 to 2020