Charles Leclerc likened his second place in the Austrian Grand Prix as the equivalent of a victory for Ferrari, considering its performance level at the start of 2020.
Ferrari looked off the pace in pre-season testing and team principal Mattia Binotto admitted the new car did not react the way the team expected, leading to a change in aerodynamic direction. The first upgrades will not be ready until Hungary, meaning Ferrari is tackling the first two races at the Red Bull Ring in launch spec. Nevertheless Leclerc — who started from seventh — drove an impressive race to climb up to third on the road and finish second after Lewis Hamilton received a time penalty.
“I’m extremely happy, it feels like a victory today,” Leclerc said. “We have been struggling since the beginning of the weekend. We’ve had luck in this race with the various safety cars, crashes, penalties, but in the end we stayed on track. I gave my maximum and I think we managed the race perfectly with the package we have at the moment.
“To have a second place with the performance we had all weekend is something I would never have expected. So we made the best out of it and I’m extremely happy about our result, because the performance obviously is not where we want to be.”
Leclerc insists the Ferrari is not much quicker in race trim than in qualifying, as it lacks straight-line speed.
“We are quick ’round the corners but we struggle, so we will have a new package in Hungary to try and fix this issue a little bit — we’ll see. It has been a very, very difficult race today, struggling to overtake and every time somebody was making a mistake then I was being very aggressive to try and take that opportunity, which we did.”
The Monegasque native believes he delivered one of his best personal performances on Sunday, having pulled aggressive moves on the likes of Lando Norris and Sergio Perez to rise to the front of a closely-matched group consisting of Ferrari, McLaren and Racing Point.
“I would rate this one as probably one of my best races since I arrived in Formula 1, because I really didn’t do many mistakes. So I’m extremely happy with my performance, also with the strategy, with our choices. It’s not been easy because in the first part of the race the race was actually pretty boring for us. But I really pushed to stay focused and we were doing some quite good laptimes. I think we were extracting the maximum out of the car and it paid off in the end, so that was great.”