The final round of Arthur Leclerc’s rookie campaign didn’t get off to an ideal start, but the DAMS driver was satisfied to have reached the Feature Race chequered flag and end on a positive note.

After a technical issue derailed his Qualifying preparations during Free Practice and a stall on the grid in the Sprint Race forced him to start from the pitlane, Leclerc was keen to make amends on Sunday. Lining up in P13, he opted to go long by starting on the medium tyres.

Climbing his way back up the order, the Ferrari junior helped secure his team’s first double-points finish since the Silverstone Feature Race with sixth.

“Firstly, the weekend started quite bad, especially as we didn’t put any laps down in Practice,” Leclerc noted. “Going into Qualifying, it was really hard to get the confidence. We only have four or five push laps in Qualifying, so I couldn’t extract the maximum from the car.

“Coming into the Sprint, unfortunately we had a new clutch, and we didn’t have any practice starts as we didn’t do Free Practice. So, the first start that I did was on the grid and unfortunately it was not the right setup for it, and we stalled. I started from the back, but we saw that we had good pace on the mediums. It was quite a good representation for today.

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“Today was still not a great start, we still struggled to set up the clutch properly because we didn’t know enough about it. Then after, we showed some really good pace. The mediums were not so strong, it was a bit tricky in the middle of the race. But at the end of the race on the softs, I definitely think we were definitely one of the strongest, so some positives to take.”

One of the positives in his mind was his final lap overtake on MP Motorsport’s Dennis Hauger. An unseen move as the focus shifted towards the battle for the title, Leclerc managed to make up over 15 seconds in eight laps, rocketing from 11th to finish sixth.

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However, the Monégasque believes even more could have been on the cards given the rapid pace he showed. Lamenting that a shot at the podium slipped out of his hands, Leclerc ended up just over five seconds back from third-place Frederik Vesti after receiving a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage whilst battling Juan Manuel Correa.

“I did a lot of moves, so it was quite a good race, especially the last lap, that was really, really good. I think the move I did on Dennis was amazing, but you didn’t see it on TV because you were seeing a bit more in front. The last lap was really interesting, just a shame that we took a five-second penalty as I think we could have maybe contended for the podium.

“I think we were one of the fastest on race pace. We started P13, we finished P6, and we had the five-second penalty, so we could have maybe tried to get the podium, so we can be happy today. We have been strong on this point. There are some positives to take from the season, but unfortunately the results are showing a negative.”

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Concluding the season 15th in the Drivers’ Championship, Leclerc reflected on a rollercoaster rookie campaign. Scoring points on debut in Bahrain, Jeddah and a Feature Race podium in Melbourne, the DAMS driver sat as high as fifth in the Standings following Round 3, but says things tailed off at the mid-point of the year and never recovered.

“It doesn’t feel like a victory to be honest. We are P6, it’s decent starting from P13, but it’s not good enough. It has been a really tricky season overall. We were really strong at the beginning of the season. We showed really good pace, even the first time in the car we were had a good time. In the Championship we were P5 after Melbourne and then unfortunately, we crashed in Monaco and since then, I didn’t feel the same with the car.

“The car just felt different and since then, we never scored good points. As well, we didn’t have luck on our side every time, but that’s how it goes.”