Charles Leclerc says his own motivation and development in his rookie season was boosted by Sauber’s clear progress throughout 2018.
Sauber started the season on the back foot with its new car, struggling in the opening round in Australia and Leclerc himself failing to score a point until the fourth race in Baku. From that point on, Sauber made impressive gains and ended the season with regular Q3 and point-scoring finishes, something that Leclerc — who will race for Ferrari in 2019 — says aided his own development.
“I think it could have been a very difficult season mentally if obviously myself and the car would have kept the level we had at the beginning of the season,” Leclerc said. “But for me it made it a lot more interesting once we started to evaluate as a car and also myself as a driver.
“Fighting for points and things like this, it gave me a lot of motivation, but I believe that if you are in a position like where we were for the first few races for the whole year, the motivation is quite difficult.”
Leclerc’s slow start to 2018 saw a bit of pressure building on the Monaco native, but he says the opening races allowed him to pinpoint the areas he needed to focus on early in his Formula 1 career.
“Never is anything easy! But definitely the first three races I learned massively. I worked extremely hard in the first three races just to understand and identify my weaknesses, what were the things that were just not going right, and after these first three races we finally understood with the team and made a big step forward. Since then we were quite strong actually.”
One of the areas Leclerc says he needed to work on was the overall F1 environment, having stepped up from winning the Formula 2 championship in 2017.
“Most of it comes from just getting used to the paddock, to the things we need to do around driving that I didn’t expect at the beginning of the year. All these things are small details but make quite a big difference.
“And also just the way you work with so many people — before (in F2) you speak only to your engineer and that’s it. All these things have changed me quite a bit.”