One of several Formula 3 drivers to appear at the post-season Formula 2 test at Yas Marina, Arthur Leclerc says his three days of work were hugely productive. The Monégasque was driving for DAMS over the course of the test, posting the fifth-fastest time on the final day.
He slowly built up to the challenge of adapting to F2 machinery, a car he says is totally different to what he experienced with PREMA Racing in F3 this season. His time on the final morning was quicker than pole-sitter Ayumu Iwasa managed during the F2 race weekend.
Leclerc says that he learned a few tricks during his time in the car but believes that nobody should be reading into the laptimes too much.
“For me, I think that the test was quite good. I think we worked quite well with the team. The target of the test was to adapt to the car because it's quite tricky to drive. You need to have some tricks, but we've not done too badly. Also, I wanted to adapt to the team because I was working with a new team for me. It's really hard to adapt but I think we did well.
“Since the F2 race weekend, there’s been the F1 race and the post-season test for them, so the track is completely different than a normal race weekend. I think we cannot rest too much on the good performance of the final day."
Driving alongside pole-sitter and Feature Race winner Iwasa, Leclerc says he learned plenty during each day of the test. Crucially, he was adapting to a new team in the form of DAMS. Having driven with PREMA during the Formula 3 2022 season, a change of scenery was one of the challenges Leclerc was facing.
It wasn’t too daunting for him though, with the fact the team is French counting in his favour and going a long way in helping him feel comfortable right away.
“It's been nice, especially because it's a French team and I speak French, so it's quite easy to relate with the team and get on with them. They are working really well at the moment. I felt really welcome within the team as well, so I think it went well.
“We've done quite good during this test, we adapted quite well together, we worked quite well together and at the same time, I adapted to the car quite fast also. I'm pretty happy. Now, obviously, there is still some more work to do to find a bit more performance, but it was good.”
Alongside several of his closest rivals from the 2022 F3 season, it was a totally new car to get to grips with in Abu Dhabi. Differences in tyres, power and braking capabilities are some of the biggest facing drivers, and Leclerc says it was a tough balancing act to adapt to.
Leclerc says he was enjoying having so much to take in in just three days of testing. Learning the ins and outs of a new car was rewarding according to Monégasque.
“It's really fun to drive, there was a lot of experience testing as well as F3 rivals so the competition was really high. It's quite hard I’d say. It's completely different car to F3. The F2 car has almost 700 horsepower, so it's not easy to handle, but to be honest, it's quite fun. I’ve learned quite a lot especially because everything is new. So you can only learn more and more. I have a good baseline now to build from.”
Picking out one factor that was the most difficult to overcome, Leclerc said the Pirelli tyres were trickiest of all.
“The tyres were not easy either. I mean, obviously it's much more tricky than in F3 but I think we did a decent job on the final afternoon. We cannot rely too much on the lap times on the others because the track is really grippy and during the weekend, it was a little bit less grippy than it is now.”