He has been enjoying an upturn in form as of late and Arthur Leclerc is under no illusions about how the turn of pace as come about. The PREMA Racing driver is currently sitting third in the Driver’s Championship, just seven points off of the top spot and ART Grand Prix’s Victor Martins.
So far this season, things have begun to click into place and Leclerc says there is still more pace to come in the remaining rounds of what he hopes will be a Championship-winning campaign.
“I changed quite a lot for this season during the winter. The main focus we had from last year was to improve me as a driver and we did pretty well in the Formula Regional, we won the Championship then in the beginning of the season in Formula 3 we did really good, even though in Bahrain we couldn’t really see it but it was good. In Imola, we were fighting for pole position before the incident. In Barcelona we were P5 so it’s clearly a step. Then of course it’s about putting every single detail together. It’s a Championship with a high level, but I’m pretty happy right now.”
There’s no wonder why the PREMA driver is pleased with his current situation. After a difficult start to the season which included just a single podium appearance in the first seven races, Leclerc finally stood on the top step after winning the Feature Race at Silverstone.
He now boasts the best form and highest points total in the past three races of any driver in the Championship. His 43 points stemming from his Silverstone victory and two fourth place finishes since have reinvigorated his title challenge.
While the pace was already there according to Leclerc, his Qualifying held him back from better results and often left him needing to fight back during the Sprint and Feature Races, leaving him with too much to do to recover his weekend.
“2022 started well, in terms of days of pace and speed. I think we are really happy because we have the potential to win races and take some pole positions. Then on the other hand, we’ve struggled a little bit with Qualifying at the beginning of the season.
“Generally, we have done a huge step from last year in terms of performance, even myself in my approach, everything is much better this year. But if you want to fight for the Championship, you need to do even more so we are working on it. We are working to do better Qualifying and that will bring us to a better position for the races.
“I’m really happy about the step, it’s going in the right direction. We have the base and I know that we have that so we can do good. I’m pretty happy about putting everything together, not doing mistakes and fight for pole.”
One factor in particular that Leclerc believes has aided his 2022 season is the consistency away from the track too. Remaining with PREMA is a boost and not having to re-acquaint himself with a new team for this year has meant the focus has been solely on finding the extra tenths of a second that are critical in Formula 3.
From utilisation of the simulator tools to working through data and information more efficiently, the familiar faces are more than making up for the lack of track time across a race weekend, one of the more tricky challenges to overcome.
“The team helps a lot. You have the same people around you and they help you in the right way. I feel really good within the team as part of the PREMA academy, so not having to change environments and not change people around me is a big help as well. We are not starting from the bottom. We’ve already started the work last year and I’m really happy to continue it this year.
“Every time I’m going out on track I’m gaining experience, I’m always gaining more information. I’m always looking to look into the details more, especially in this Championship it’s really important. You don’t get much track time so there’s already been some improvements from the beginning of the year. I would say Qualifying is getting better and better every weekend too. Race pace as well, so it’s clear we’ve made a good step.
“The team has helped me a lot about the approach side. The simulator driving, certainly. Having the same people around a bunch of people around me is quite good to improve this.”
It’s not just raw pace however that has made the difference this year between the Championship contenders and the hopefuls. Leclerc considers that it requires a full repertoire from ahead of the race weekend to the cool down lap of the Feature Race and the days beyond back at HQ.
With such a tight field spread and the minute details making the difference, having an utterly professional approach to every element of the season is something the Monégasque says he has worked hard to learn and employ in his career.
“In F3 the level is really, really high. You have to think about every single detail. It's about track positioning, it's about approach, it's about wheel-to-wheel skill. I mean you have to be a complete driver to constantly battle for the podium. It's not only one single detail, but it's all the details together that makes you better in Qualifying and over a race weekend in general. That's what I'm trying to learn. That's what I was really a lot in Formula Regional, and since the beginning of the season to now I'm trying to replicate that across everything I do.”
Of course, the reverse of this is the challenge of winning a Championship. Now in his second campaign in F3, the expectations have risen, both of Leclerc himself and those watching on from the sidelines.
“The target for me is to win, it’s always the target. The focus is on the job and to improve the details as a driver. I really put my focus on it and I think as a team we can challenge for the Championship.
“We already have quite a lot of pace, I’m quite confident right now and then it’s just about using the full potential and putting everything together and then the results will come. Looking at the last year and from the beginning of this season, I’m pushing my targets and we’ll definitely have some more podiums.”