Charles Leclerc is confident he will continue to perform at a higher level as a result of a different setup approach he took at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Having shown strong pace but lacked consistency in the first three races of his Formula 1 career, Leclerc delivered a hugely impressive performance to finish sixth in Baku and score his first points. The result came with Sauber having also showed clear progress with its 2018 car since pre-season testing, having opted for a new aerodynamic philosophy and upgraded to the current specification Ferrari power unit.
Asked whether his first points are down to his own growing experience or Sauber improving its car, Leclerc replied: “I think it’s a combination of both.
“I think I improved a lot because of the approach we had [in Baku] with the setup. We went to a more understeer car for me, which is more the way Marcus [Ericsson] was driving the car before. And before, my car was way too unpredictable and was very difficult to put everything together.
“We targeted a more understeer balance and it has been night and day for me. So I think this has helped me a lot. I think, again, the car suited the track well. I like the track. So a bit of everything, but I definitely think the biggest difference is the car coming to me – and me getting more confidence with the car has made that we had a better performance.”
While he played down the potential for Sauber to challenge for similar results on a regular basis, Leclerc says his battle with Fernando Alonso – overtaking the Spaniard soon after a pit stop mid-race – was a special moment on both a personal level and for the team.
“Fernando was a driver I was watching when I was five years old in Monaco so to race with him is quite crazy,” he related. “To also be able to fight him…yes we had the tire advantage, but even at the end of the race we were looking strong compared to McLaren. During the whole race we were looking strong compared to them, so it is a great boost for the future.”