Charles Leclerc: First Ferrari F1 season better than I expected

Scott Mitchell
Leclerc: First Ferrari year better than expected
Leclerc: First Ferrari year better than expected

Charles Leclerc says his first year as a Ferrari Formula 1 driver was better than he expected because he did not believe he would score such good results in 2019.

Leclerc stepped up to Ferrari after just one season in F1 with Sauber and almost won from pole on his second start with the Maranello team, but he was foiled by an engine problem in Bahrain.

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However, he eventually claimed his first victory in Belgium before following that up with a second win one week later at Ferrari's home race in Italy.

Leclerc scored seven poles, more than any other driver, in 2019 and, while he did not add to his tally of two victories, he did score a further eight podiums and finished fourth in the championship, 24 points clear of his four-time world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel.

"I'm happy, at the beginning of the season if you will have told me you will have seven poles and 10 podiums, I wouldn't have believed it," said Leclerc when asked by Autosport about his season.

"So it's definitely better than what I expected.

"Looking back though, there are quite a few mistakes so the targets now is to understand them and to not do them again.

"But I am satisfied with this first season."

Leclerc had many opportunities to earn his breakthrough win before the summer break but crashed in qualifying in Azerbaijan (where he had threatened for pole), was passed by Max Verstappen on the penultimate lap in Austria and crashed in the rain-hit German Grand Prix, which he would have likely started from pole had another reliability problem not struck in qualifying.

Leclerc: First Ferrari year better than expected
Leclerc: First Ferrari year better than expected

After the summer break, Leclerc could have won four races in a row - a Ferrari strategy quirk denied him victory in Singapore and gave Vettel the win instead, before Vettel's retirement in Russia caused a safety car that took the win from Leclerc there.

His final pole, in Mexico, turned into fourth in the race because of Ferrari's strategy.

"It's not been an easy season," Leclerc admitted.

"The first part we have been struggling, but I think we've been working well, and I think the hard work paid off on the second part of the season with two incredible wins.

"Obviously Monza is something that was beyond all of my dreams.

"To be on top of that podium with hundreds and thousands of Ferrari fans was absolutely crazy.

"These experiences I will never forget them, this first year I will never forget it.

"Then again, I've still got a lot of work to do to get better.

"But I'll put my head down and get better."

Leclerc said he learned "a huge amount" in his first year with Ferrari, and that his priority was to ensure he did not repeat errors made in 2019.

"I'm pretty sure well it will only get better from this season," he said.

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