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Leclerc: Baku qualifying crash forced change in approach

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Charles Leclerc probably hoped he’d have more to show for the first six races of his Ferrari career than a solitary podium, four fifth places and a DNF. But despite a troubled start to his career at the team, the Monegasque was looking to better days ahead following a fundamental change to his approach behind the wheel of his SF90, brought on by a painful lesson learned from earlier in the year…

Without doubt the most high profile error Leclerc has made so far in 2019 came during the Q2 segment of qualifying in Baku, when Leclerc – who’d been the class of the field throughout the weekend – crashed his Ferrari into the Turn 8 wall. But it was at least a shunt, Leclerc reckoned, that had helped him mature as a driver.

“One approach that I probably have changed after Baku was pushing too hard in Q2,” said Leclerc, speaking ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix. “We definitely had an easy potential to go into Q3 with the car that we had. To crash at that time was probably a bit stupid as I mentioned many times.

“Compared to a year like last year [with Sauber] when you can give it all from Q1 to Q3… in Baku maybe it was not very important to give everything in Q2 because we definitely had the potential to do a lot better in Q3. But there have been… a few mistakes on my side and I’ve definitely learned from them. Now I’m looking forward trying not to reproduce them, and hopefully there are better times to come.”

It’s been a difficult start to the season. We definitely expected more but we need to push until the end and that’s what we are doing

Charles Leclerc

Given Leclerc’s sterling rookie season with Sauber last season, there were many who thought, ahead of 2019, that he was a dark horse for this year’s title. But after a season so far that’s seen a Mercedes win every Grand Prix – one of those wins denying Leclerc his maiden F1 victory, when his car suffered an electronics issue in Bahrain – and on the back of a home race in Monaco that saw him retire after making contact with Nico Hulkenberg, Leclerc currently sits fifth in the drivers’ standings, a full 80 points off Lewis Hamilton’s total.

Yet when asked whether Leclerc was already “waving goodbye” to his title hopes, the Monegasque replied defiantly: “I never wave goodbye until it’s done. Of course, as I said earlier, it’s been a difficult start to the season. We definitely expected more but we don’t need to wave goodbye yet. We need to push until the end and that’s what we are doing. Trying to understand our mistakes, trying not to do them again and improve from there, and I’m pretty sure the results will come.”

Canada represents a decent chance of Leclerc making his first podium appearance since that disappointing evening in Bahrain back in March, with many of his rivals, including Lewis Hamilton, tipping the rapid-in-a-straight-line Ferraris to be strong this weekend around the fast Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.

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