Charles Leclerc believes Sauber is gaining in confidence as a result of its recent competitiveness despite both cars retiring from the British Grand Prix.
After another impressive qualifying performance that saw him reach Q3, Leclerc was running behind Nico Hulkenberg in the fight for what was seventh place at the time when an attempt to jump the Renault in the pits saw him forced to retire with a loose wheel. Despite that, Leclerc says the pace to be able to fight for best of the rest behind the top three teams at Silverstone is a performance Sauber can take encouragement from.
“It’s difficult because otherwise we will be fighting with Red Bull soon!” Leclerc said. “I think this is probably the maximum we can get at the moment. Probably teams have struggled with the warmer conditions [in Britain] and we probably struggled a bit less.
“So maybe it’s a combination of things that made us particularly strong this weekend; it’s not going to be Q3 every weekend. So we will try to push. Hockenheim is a track I really like, so hopefully it will be as positive as this weekend there.
“We all are aware that it’s above our expectations and we really need to keep our feet on the ground — we need to keep working. But yeah, definitely, we really thought that [Silverstone] would be a big problem for us and it definitely has not been the case, so we are now a bit more confident.”
Having been expecting last weekend to be one of Sauber’s tougher venues, Leclerc believes a clean pit stop would have seen him finish in sixth place ahead of Hulkenberg, but says his team deserves praise for its recent performances in the pit lane rather than regretting the lost points.
“It was a very good race until that pit stop. But in the last few races we topped twice the best pit stop of the race and once we were second I think, so we have been extremely competitive from the beginning of the year for that.
“When you are pushing everything to the limit sometimes it happens that you make a mistake. It’s a shame because we were fighting for P6 because in the end Nico finished P6 and I think the undercut was working very well, but it happens. We’ll come back stronger.
“I think we would have got him strategically because the pit stop was very, very good and we would have gained quite a lot going on new tires. I was quite close to him on this lap — that’s why we pitted on that lap — so strategically I think we could have been in front.”