Singapore race 'close to being perfect' – Leclerc
Five races without a point, three of which ended in retirement, had somewhat put the brakes on what has been a superb rookie season for Charles Leclerc. But, buoyed by confirmation of his 2019 move to Ferrari, the Sauber star returned to the top ten in Singapore – and did so in impressive fashion…
Prior to Sunday’s tense showdown at the spectacular Marina Bay Street Circuit, Leclerc last secured points in Austria, his fifth top-ten finish of the season. But since then, he had endured a tough time.
The Monagasque driver lost a potential high-scoring finish when a wheel came off his car following his pit stop at Silverstone, and suffered further retirements in Hungary and Belgium – the latter the result of a heart-stopping, first-lap collision.
But fresh from the news that he’ll partner Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari next season, replacing the experienced Kimi Raikkonen, Leclerc delivered a mature performance in Singapore to bring home two points for his current squad.
“What a race – it was quite close to being perfect,” said Leclerc. “We had strong lap times, and the balance of the car felt good from the beginning to the end.
"We made a great recovery this weekend, after having a weaker race pace on Friday. With our strategy, we were able to fight our way to the front of the midfield and finish in the points again.
“Achieving this after the past few weekends feels good and shows our potential. I look forward to the next one.”
It is perhaps understandable that Leclerc was delighted with his Sunday exploits, given the problems the team encountered on Friday when Leclerc first ripped the right-front wheel off his car in a brush with the barriers and then both he and team mate Marcus Ericsson struggled for performance on high fuel.
But from that point on, the only way was up, with Ericsson adding to the team's joy by finishing in a respectable 11th – and Team Principal Frederic Vasseur was pleased to see both his drivers cross the line in Singapore.
“We are satisfied with our result today. After a tricky start to the weekend, we recovered well and qualified in decent positions.
“Our strategy was good and both drivers gave a strong and consistent performance in a very demanding race. Charles finished in P9 adding two more points to our tally, and Marcus was also close to finishing in the top ten.
“We have to stay focused and continue improving this way, and I look forward to the next Grand Prix in Russia.”
Leclerc remains 15th in the drivers’ standings, 12 points behind Haas’ Romain Grosjean, while Ericsson is 18th.