Charles Leclerc was “extremely happy” to see his former Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel return to the podium in Baku.
Drama is never far away at the Azerbaijan GP, and that remained the case as it returned for 2021, but no incident could devalue what was a very solid drive for Vettel in his sixth outing as an Aston Martin driver.
Starting P11, Vettel would work his way up to P2 by the time the chequered flag flew, marking Aston Martin’s first podium finish in Formula 1.
Having struggled to compete with Ferrari for pace this season pre-Baku, Leclerc is keen to find out where Aston Martin suddenly found that performance, but above all was delighted to see Vettel, who left Ferrari at the end of 2020, back on the podium.
Leclerc was also happy to see his friend Pierre Gasly take to the third step, after the Frenchman had defended a late Leclerc attack for P3 at the race restart.
“In Baku I was very surprised by the performance of Aston Martin,” he said, as quoted by Speedweek.
“I didn’t expect that they would be so fast. I would be interested to know how they could take such a step forward. As for Seb, I’m extremely happy for him that he finished second on the podium. I’m also happy for my buddy Pierre Gasly. It was close in this last two-lap sprint towards the finish – they were a little faster.
“But it was also important for me to keep Lando Norris behind me. Ferrari’s real fight isn’t against Aston Martin or AlphaTauri, it’s against McLaren.”
Leclerc and Vettel first became team-mates back in 2019, at which point Leclerc was joining Ferrari with only one season of prior experience in Formula 1.
And so, Leclerc said he benefitted from the four-time World Champion’s presence greatly.
“I’ve always been impressed with his experience. In some situations he had great analytical skills. I learned a lot from Seb in that regard,” Leclerc explained.
“He’s someone who pays a lot of attention to detail and that made a big difference in the end on the track. It was very interesting for me to watch his work. Besides, Seb is just a very good person. I was impressed by his modesty.
“When we get close in the racing car, he certainly doesn’t think: ‘Ah, my team-mate from the past.’ When I shut my visor, there is no room for such thoughts, and that’s exactly how it is with him.”