By his own admission, Arthur Leclerc’s run of mid-season performances weren’t to the standard he expected, but his pace around Monza has left the DAMS driver optimistic that they’ve got what it takes to write a more positive tale from this weekend.
Starting in the thick of the fray in P12, the Ferrari junior kept his nose clean and stay out of trouble on the opening lap. Losing out to Enzo Fittipaldi off the line, Leclerc steadily fought hard to get up the order and claim two points in seventh.
Reflecting on today’s events, he believes that the 21 laps of racing around the Monza circuit were far from a walk in the park.
"It was a good race. Obviously, it was really tricky at the start, there were a lot of cars going off track or cutting the chicane, which was difficult to manage. Then, after that we managed to comeback. It was really intense racing, especially with (Roman) Stanek. I remember the last overtake I did on the outside of Parabolica was quite tricky and then the braking into Turn 1 after was challenging to manage, but we gained back P7, so I'm quite happy."
Importantly for Leclerc, his P7 finish is his first return to the points since the Silverstone Feature Race. Three point-less rounds in Budapest, Spa-Francorchamps and Zandvoort are a stark contrast to the early season highs, such as his maiden podium in the Melbourne Feature Race.
Admitting that he felt perplexed by how his rookie season has panned out, the Monégasque is hopeful that he and the team have gotten on top of their previous setbacks.
"To be honest, I can't really explain everything with the sudden loss of performance. I've come from Melbourne where I was P4 in the Championship and P1 out of the rookies, so the season was going well. Then suddenly, I crashed in Monaco, which was my own mistake and since then, we've struggled to score points. It's a mystery that is still not answered.”
He added: “We have been working hard on the car and it's looking to be much better in the last two rounds.”
Overtaking opportunities seem not to have been as ample as the field might have expected and Leclerc fears that it might be almost impossible to shake off getting sandwiched in a DRS train. Stating that there’s still work to be done to set himself up in the best way possible for Sunday’s Feature Race, the Ferrari junior is eager to reward his legions of fans for their “heartwarming” support with another fightback through to the points.
"The race pace is looking good, but we still have some stuff to fix with the car balance. We are lacking, mainly we are struggling to make the tyres work properly, so we just need to focus and put a lot more effort to find the small trick with the car balance. We'll keep working on our side and we'll try to bring some answers in for tomorrow.
"Today it was not that easy to overtake, especially with the DRS train. It's really, really hard to start an overtake. The DRS is not really powerful as we are running very low downforce, so it will be down to the driver who is the fastest and to stay with the group as well. Let's see, it's tricky to predict. The supersofts are degrading quite a lot, so maybe we'll have some surprises in the Feature.
"It's great to still have such support, especially when I look at how my season has gone. It was good after Melbourne, but since then we've hardly scored points, so the results are really down. Just to see that there is support for me, even if the results aren't there, is really heartwarming. I'm really thankful!
"I will push for points like I did today. Since the beginning of the season, I have been pushing flat out every single race weekend, even if the results aren't showing it. I'm here and I'm super motivated to come back in front. It's a track where we can overtake. We had a bad Qualifying unfortunately as a team, but now we are turning the page and look forward.”