The Hungarian Grand Prix was a race to forget for Sauber, with Charles Leclerc retiring after first-lap contract with the two Force Indias, while Marcus Ericsson’s own first-corner impact with Daniel Ricciardo ended up compromising his afternoon, as he finished 15th. Taken as a whole, though, Leclerc still feels that Sauber’s first half of the season has defied all expectations…
Leclerc’s weekend had got off to a bad start, as he failed to make it out of Q1 for the first time since the Chinese Grand Prix back in April, ending up 16th on the grid. Life didn’t get any easier when the race started, either, with Leclerc getting squeezed in between the pink and white cars of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon at the first corner.
“Basically in Turn 1, I was between Checo and Esteban,” said Leclerc. “I think, to be honest, they just didn’t see me. I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t back off because obviously I had cars quite close behind and anyway my wheels were in front of their rear wheels. We just made contact and I had one piece [of debris] that went into my radiator. That broke the radiator and then it was race over.”
Despite the disappointment in Hungary adding to an unwanted recent run of results – Leclerc retired in Silverstone after his front wheel wasn’t correctly fitted in the pit stops, while in the changeable conditions in Germany he could only manage 15th – the combination of Leclerc and Sauber has been a potent one for the majority of 2018. The 2017 F2 champion has a highest finish so far of sixth in Azerbaijan, while he’s also manhandled his Sauber C37 into Q3 on three separate occasions this season.
For a team that scored a total of seven points over the whole of the 2016 and 2017 seasons – Leclerc on his own has 13 so far this year – Sauber’s transformation has been remarkable.