After finishing in the points for the fourth time in the last five races, you might have thought Charles Leclerc would be buzzing after the French Grand Prix. But the Sauber rookie believes he should have had an even bigger return than 10th place on Sunday...
Leclerc delivered an extremely impressive qualifying performance to reach Q3 for the first time in his career at Le Castellet, taking advantage of a difficult final session for the two Haas drivers to qualify in eighth place. While Friday’s race pace had shown Haas to have an advantage of anything up to 1.5 seconds per lap, Leclerc was competitive and chasing Kevin Magnussen for sixth place in the opening stint when he ran wide, losing a further position to Nico Hulkenberg.
Ending the race in tenth place once Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas recovered through the field after a collision on the opening lap, Leclerc says a result he would have been happy with after qualifying turned out to be a missed opportunity.
“At the end we had to expect it a little bit,” Leclerc said. “As I said [after qualifying], the Haas were very strong, Renault were very strong also. In the end I think we have been more surprised than anything, we were following them and we were actually putting pressure on them which we definitely did not expect.
“I’m a little bit disappointed with myself as I think overall we did a great race, myself and the team, but I did a mistake following Kevin. I wanted to put pressure on him, I came back in the DRS zone and lost the car in Turn 2 being too close to him and then Nico Hulkenberg overtook us so we lost quite a bit of time there and lost one place.
“So it’s a bit of a shame but we’ve had a smooth run in the last four or five races without many mistakes, so sometimes it happens and I will try to learn from it to get better.”