Charles Leclerc believes his recovery drive to earn P7 in Styria was one of his best performances in Formula 1 to date.
Having clipped his front wing on Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri on the first lap, Leclerc had to dive straight into the pits. He subsequently came back through the field to get himself into the points for Ferrari.
His performance did not go unnoticed either, as the Monegasque earned the fans’ Driver of the Day award and, while he was frustrated with himself after the first lap, he felt he made the best of his situation to earn some points in the end.
“It’s really a pity for the first lap because apart from that, maybe it’s one of my best performances,” Leclerc told Sky Italia after the race.
“But anyway it must be said that today the car was a great car and it’s been a really positive day. But honestly with what happened on the straight after Turn 1, it’s been really difficult to recover everything.
“We did our best, took all the opportunities I had, aggressive overtakes but they always went well, we overtook very quickly and the pace was always very good, the degradation [of the tyre] as well with these overtakes went well.
“The team did a great job, there’s a lot of work behind the scenes. So today’s result is for sure positive but it also shows that the team is working a lot in the background.
“Today it’s been really good, maybe even better than what was expected. Let’s see, we’ll try once again to analyse to really understand everything well and reproduce this kind of performance in the future.”
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Team-mate Carlos Sainz, however, produced an excellent drive of his own to gain six places in the race in what turned into a decent points haul for the Scuderia.
He moved up from his P12 starting slot to take P6 in the end having managed to go further into the race than any other driver before stopping, and made the most of his car after what had been a difficult qualifying session.
“I’m satisfied because starting 12th arriving sixth was more or less what I wanted this morning having breakfast, I wanted to finish there in the top six with a good race,” Sainz told Sky Italia.
“Today the pace of the car was really good, we managed to overtake on track and to do also the overcut on many drivers of the midfield. The tyres behaved well and the only pity in the end [with] the stint with the hard [tyre] I found Lewis. I did 10, 15 laps behind him putting great energy on the front tyres that didn’t allow me to catch Lando.”
With the Spaniard having previously complained of the lingering tyre issues facing Ferrari, he is now trying to understand where their improved turn of pace managed to come from at the Red Bull Ring.
Having had the speed to compete late into the race, he felt he could have been able to catch former McLaren team-mate Lando Norris for P5, had he not needed to un-lap-himself from Lewis Hamilton.
He added: “There is hope, especially with the race pace, on this circuit we don’t know why yet, it’s much better than in Paul Ricard. We have to find something in qualifying because we started a bit too behind and I’d like to start more ahead to put more pressure on McLaren in the race since today we had more race pace than them.
“Today there was the pace, we know we’re not at the level of Red Bull and Mercedes, we know that. But today the race pace was really really good and if it was not for those 10, 15 laps behind Lewis, I think I’d have caught Lando.
“Today with the medium [tyre] before stopping I was as fast as Red Bull and faster than all the others with new tyres. Today I don’t know [why] but I found a really good race pace.”
Additional reporting by Luca Brambilla