‘I need to pick my fights better’ – Leclerc targeting Lap 1 improvements in 2021
Having comfortably got the better of Sebastian Vettel in their final season together as team mates at Ferrari, at the end of the year Charles Leclerc declared himself “quite satisfied” with his performance in 2020. But the Monegasque is nonetheless targeting improvements to his Lap 1 battling for next season, after a number of costly incidents this year.
In only his third season of Formula 1, Leclerc was comfortably the stronger of the two Ferrari drivers in the unwieldy SF1000, across a difficult year for the Scuderia.
He took two podiums to Vettel’s one, made 11 Q3 appearances to Vettel’s three, while in the drivers’ standings, Leclerc wound up P8 to Vettel’s P13, having outscored the German by 98 points to 33 – meaning that if Vettel had matched his team mate’s tally, Ferrari would have ended up beating Racing Point to fourth in the constructors’ standings, rather than slumping to their eventual P6.
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“It's been a tiring season, but looking back, I'm quite satisfied,” said Leclerc. “On a personal level, I've grown a lot, and I think it's been a good season personally.
“With my own performance, I’m very happy. I’ve taken quite a bit of risks this year, but most of the time they’ve paid off and today when I see the championship [standings], it’s not like there’s much more [I could have] done so very happy with this year.”
One chink in Leclerc’s armour – perhaps stemming from the Ferraris’ lower average starting positions this year – has been his tendency to be too rash on the opening laps, resulting in him colliding with his team mate at Turn 3 in the Styrian Grand Prix, while he would receive a three-place grid drop after his actions at the Sakhir Grand Prix, which saw him cannon into eventual winner Sergio Perez, and contribute to Max Verstappen’s retirement on Lap 1 of the race.
But Leclerc said that he was looking to harness and refine that aggressive first-lap tendency, rather than eliminating it altogether going forward.
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“I think I've gained a lot in some of the races on the first lap, which helped me to gain a lot of points this year,” said Leclerc. “It happens that sometimes it just doesn’t go my way. It didn't [in Sakhir], and it didn't in Austria at the beginning of the year, but in the end, I've also gained a lot of points with that.
“I'll try to choose better the fights, because obviously gaining a position to Max [in Sakhir] was not going to bring us into a better position because Max was anyway quicker than us. But anyway, it's past and it's like this. I will learn from it, and that's it.”