Charles Leclerc says his first two races for Ferrari have taught him to ignore the speed at which expectations can build in Formula 1, ahead of this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.
The 21-year-old finished fifth in his opening race for the Scuderia after making a mistake in qualifying, with a team order preventing him from racing Sebastian Vettel in the closing laps as the team struggled for performance. A much-improved display in Bahrain saw Leclerc secure pole position and overtake Vettel on track before a reliability issue cost him a maiden victory, but says championship talk is premature.
“After the first race nobody sees me as a title contender and then after the second race everyone sees me as a title contender,” said Leclerc. “So things can go very quickly in F1 and I need to keep the focus on what I am doing in the car. Work as hard as possible and try to do the best job inside and outside of the car and then I am pretty sure the results will come. Then we will see.
“We are only at the third race of the season and it is very early on. We will see how we get on in the next few races but hopefully we keep the momentum from Bahrain.”
Ferrari locked out the front row in Bahrain and Leclerc’s was the quickest car in the race, but the Monegasque driver says expecting a repeat in China would be an error by the team.
“In general, Melbourne is not such a representative track to look at for the performance of the cars. On the other hand I don’t think we should draw any conclusions from only one weekend in Bahrain, so it is very difficult to say. I think it’s still very early on in the season and we need to wait for some more races but I was happy with the car I had in the last race and I hope it will stay that way.”
Leclerc had the measure of teammate Vettel in Bahrain, and says differences in the way they each set up their cars could have had an impact on the disparity at the last race.
“I think overall in Bahrain he had some balance issues and I was a lot more happy with the balance. I don’t know but I believe it comes more from a confidence point of view. I was more confident with the balance I had in Bahrain than he was.
“Seb and I, from Barcelona (testing) we have two very different driving styles. We require some changes on the car and some slightly different balance. I won’t go into too much detail on this but we don’t require exactly the same car.”