Arthur Leclerc is satisfied with his Qualifying efforts on PREMA Racing’s home soil, ending up P5 for the Monza Feature Race. The Monégasque says he will be on full attack mode in the Sprint Race on Saturday, aiming to claw back vital points in the Drivers’ Championship.
Currently sixth in the standings, 25 points behind leader Victor Martins, the Ferrari Academy junior will be starting directly ahead of the Frenchman in the Sprint Race. He is eager to make that advantage count for all it can to keep himself in the hunt for Sunday’s Feature Race.
“It will be difficult, let's be honest. We are 25 points behind so it's difficult now. But that’s fine, I just want to do the best job I can. This weekend I forget about all the rest and just send it.
“I think it could be a bit of a DRS train in the beginning because everyone is really tight at this track. But then, I expect a lot of overtaking. It’s Formula 3, we’ve seen in previous rounds even when it’s a track you cannot overtake at, in F3 anything is possible. I'm ready for every situation.”
After a drama-filled Qualifying session that included Isack Hadjar falling out of the running following a crash, Leclerc was pleased to be in the hunt for both Saturday and Sunday. Although pole was always the aim, a top five starting position for Sunday’s race is hardly a poor result he said.
Plenty of games were being played throughout Qualifying and Leclerc says he is more than satisfied with his efforts, with target Martins in sight for the Feature, one position ahead of him on the grid.
“It was not an easy Qualifying, but we were expecting that. Everyone was looking for a tow and it was just about managing the traffic at the end. We did and we did a good lap to qualify P5.
“I'm happy because it's a decent Qualifying and it can go really quickly in the other direction. Looking at the traffic everyone was getting and everyone wanting to get to tow, I think with the conditions that we had, top five is a good result.
“I think there was a bit more time in the car, but I was disturbed a bit by the traffic on my lap. But this is how F3 is, grid full of off drivers, 30 cars on track so of course in Qualifying, you cannot expect to be alone. It was not easy and despite the difficulties we did good.”
As is the case upon every visit to Monza, slipstream is key to unlocking extra pace over a single lap and the 30-car field was more than aware of that fact. With the session ticking down into the final moments, the fight for a tow meant that while others caught traffic and were affected by cars ahead, some timed their final laps to perfection and climbed up the order.
Leclerc says that ahead of the session, the team did as much planning as possible to ensure they were in the hunt as chequered flag neared, including mirroring other teams’ strategy to avoid being left out in the slipstreaming train.
“We tried to be the last car possible. In the meeting before, we tried to predict every kind of strategy of the other teams. We knew that we were quite well placed in the pits so that was a chance. For example, in Budapest, it was not possible. We knew that we were the first team and we tried to prevent every strategy so if we saw that they boxed, we boxed as well. They parked the car, we parked the car as well.
“The target was to stay behind and to get the tow because everyone was looking for that and at the end, we got it. Of course, it was not perfect because we caught some traffic sometimes, but in the end, we are in the top five, so I think everyone is happy.”
With a great result needed in the Sprint to keep his Championship ambitions intact, Leclerc says that his form from previous rounds is keeping him in a positive mindset. The Monégasque pulled off plenty of overtaking moves at Zandvoort, a track where passes are far trickier to execute than at Monza. He will be aiming to replicate that performance across the rest of the weekend.
“I know that we have a good race pace from the previous rounds, now we need to discover how to tackle this track so let's see. We worked well and we did a good job today. We will try to keep it up tomorrow and try to get a good position in the Sprint.”