Arthur Leclerc already faced an enormous task heading into Qualifying, given the grid’s unfamiliarity with the Melbourne track putting the pressure on the drivers’ ability to adapt. Yet the weather would throw an even greater test his way – running in extremely wet conditions for the first time.
Despite the difficulties in managing a constantly evolving circuit with no let-up, the DAMS driver demonstrated how far he’s come in a short space of time. Achieving his highest Formula 2 Qualifying result yet in P7, Leclerc says he’s content with the performance and the understanding he showed, considering his inexperience.
“It was really, really tricky. Obviously, the track conditions were really hard to manage, especially as a rookie because there is a lot of information with the wet tyres that you never had before. It’s not easy, but in the end P7 gives us a good chance to fight for the Feature Race and for the Sprint Race as well, as there is a reverse grid. Cannot be too happy, but happy about the overall performance.
“It’s a really nice circuit. It’s really challenging because it’s between the walls. It’s a city track, so one mistake can lead to big consequences. It’s quite fun to drive on it.”
DAMS’ Friday performance continues the team’s steady rate of progression throughout the opening three rounds of the season, with Leclerc’s teammate Ayumu Iwasa rocketing to pole position. Meanwhile, the Monégasque driver has scored points in both Feature Races so far.
Recognising that experience breeds confidence behind the wheel and in turn strong results, Leclerc believes that the work he’s been doing with the team has set him on the right course.
“Every time we’re jumping in the car with the team, we’re doing really good work to improve. For me as well, I’m improving every time I’m going in the car, especially as a rookie. It’s getting in a good direction, and we keep working.”
Starting fourth on the grid for the Sprint, Leclerc will be looking to get the better of his five fellow rookies surrounding him inside the top eight. Instead of focusing on merely holding on to points, the Ferrari junior has got his sights set on the podium ahead and reckons the 23 laps of action could paint a picture of what to expect in the longer Feature Race on Sunday.
“Of course, we are starting in a good position. The target in the race will be to go forward as much as possible. Then obviously let’s see, it’s the first race in Melbourne for everyone – for the team, for me and for the others. It will be a good and interesting starting point for the rest of the weekend.”