‘P2 feels like victory’ – Leclerc hails Austria recovery as one of his best races
Charles Leclerc has driven some fine races in Formula 1 since he arrived in the sport in 2018 – but the Monegasque hailed his drive from P7 to P2 at the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix as one of the best, as he salvaged what had been a difficult weekend up till then for his Ferrari team.
Leclerc had bemoaned Ferrari’s poor performance on Friday and Saturday, after he’d only just scraped through into Q3 in qualifying before ending up seventh, at the track he scored pole at last year, while team mate Sebastian Vettel was out in Q2.
He then spent much of the early part of the 2020 season opener demonstrating no better than midfield pace, spending the majority of the race snarled up in sixth place behind the Racing Point of Sergio Perez and McLaren of Lando Norris.
READ MORE: Bottas beats Leclerc and Norris to win dramatic Austrian GP as Hamilton is penalised
But an inspired final few laps saw Leclerc climb past the pair to finish third at the flag – which became second once Lewis Hamilton had been penalised for contact with Alex Albon, whose subsequent fall down the order had also helped Leclerc gain places.
“I’m extremely happy, to be honest,” said Leclerc. “It feels like a victory today. We have been struggling from the beginning of the weekend. We had luck in this race with the Safety Cars, crashes, penalties but at the end we stayed on track. I gave my maximum and I think we managed the race perfectly with the package we have for the moment. To have a second place with the performance we had all weekend is something I would never have expected.
“I would rate this one probably as one of my best races since I arrived in Formula 1,” Leclerc added, “because I really didn’t do many mistakes, so I’m extremely happy with the performance, also with the strategy, with our choices. And it’s not been easy, because in the first part of the race, it was actually pretty boring for us. But I really pushed to stay focused and we were doing some quite good lap times, extracting the maximum out of the car and it paid off at the end so that was great.”
Although Leclerc’s weekend recovery looked good on paper, the Monegasque hadn’t lost sight of the fact that there was work for his Ferrari team to do, as they anticipate their major upgrade for the SF1000 at Hungary in two weeks’ time.
READ MORE: Bottas says he 'dodged many bullets' to win season-opening Austrian Grand Prix
“In all the high speed we were very quick, but then in the whole first sector we were struggling a lot,” said Leclerc. “We’ll have a new package in Hungary to try and fix a little bit more this issue, but we’ll see. But it has been a very, very difficult race today, struggling to overtake.”
Leclerc’s weekend was at least better than Vettel’s, who touched with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz – ironically, the man who will replace him at Ferrari next year – on Lap 31, the contact spinning Vettel around and leaving him to finish a lowly P10.