Arthur Leclerc’s 2022 season was, as he describes himself, a case of what might have been. The Monégasque driver ended up sixth in the Drivers’ Championship but believes that it should have been so much better.
Several race weekends fell by the wayside for a variety of reasons. The high level of competition, ill fortunes and self-inflicted hits meant he arrived at the season finale still in the hunt for the title, but as an outsider rather than favourite. Though he fell short in his expectations for 2022, there were highlights and strong points to be happy with looking back on the campaign.
“That’s the thing about Formula 3 that is good for the viewers watching but for the drivers, maybe a bit less,” Leclerc reflected. “It’s really hard to put everything together. You have 30 drivers that can do a very good job so qualifying in the top 10 or top five, it’s really hard. No one maximised this I think most of the time. If you asked drivers how their season was, for sure they would say they’ve had ups and downs. That’s a bit tricky but in terms of pace and speed, I’ve been really happy about it.”
Every contender had their bright spots and rough patches. Runner-up Zane Maloney ended with a streak of Feature Race wins, but lost points at the start of the year undid his efforts. Leclerc’s PREMA Racing teammate Oliver Bearman enjoyed a consistent middle phase of the year peppered with podium finishes, but non-points finishes at the start and in the penultimate round of the season prevented him from challenging more.
For Leclerc, undoubtedly one of the main factors that prevented him from seriously fighting for the title on the final day of the season was his tough Qualifying results. Zandvoort for instance, he fell foul of the late-session Red Flag that caught Bearman out and meant he started both races from P20 around a circuit hardly conducive to easy overtaking.
While outright speed wasn’t the problem, stringing together laps that were good enough for a grid slot at the sharp end of the grid didn’t always happen.
Combined with some unlucky breaks as a result of other drivers causing Red Flag stoppages, Leclerc had it all to do during Sprint and Feature Races too many times for his own liking, despite being happy with his pace over a single lap.
“We did a huge step forward in terms of Qualifying but race pace as well. I’m pretty happy about the pace. I don’t think that’s the main point that needs improvement. I think we did really well but there were some difficult weekends like we had in Budapest or in Spa, when I think we had chances to qualify on pole but were caught out by Red Flags. In Spa, we had another issue which meant we weren’t able to put the car where it deserved to be, it was unfortunate. I think we had all the tools to win the Championship.”
Despite things not going his way, lessons were learnt and Leclerc says that it will serve him well for the future, but that it won’t necessarily mean a total revamp in his approach to his 2023 season.
The PREMA driver puts a lot of emphasis on his working with the team and vice versa as a key factor in his successes over the course of the 2022 campaign. A pragmatic race-by-race approach has been how Leclerc has tackled things so far, and that will be the modus operandi come ’23.
What he hopes will be different though is the outcome and reward, having come close to a Formula 3 Championship title despite the setbacks.
“I think I’ll continue how I have done before. You have to take it race by race. A lot of drivers have the fight and you cannot afford to give up points because you’ll get behind and then another driver will take them and take advantage. You have to focus race by race like I did. Every weekend is different. I think we showed this year that we can do a good job as a team.
“We were all in the Championship fight, battling for the team as well and everyone was happy. The last bit was the Drivers’ Championship which we couldn’t quite win, but we fought well as a team.”
As all the Formula 3 drivers are now taking a well-earned rest after a busy season, Leclerc is targeting improvements like his rivals will be and is keeping himself busy as a result.
Whether it be karting or other racing pursuits, the Monégasque driver is excited about what he can deliver in 2023 after a huge learning curve this year. Though the Championship fell out of his grasp, his love for competition and racing certainly didn’t grow dimmer.
“I would love to keep racing as much as possible. In the end, it’s my passion so I want to spend as much time in the car as possible. Let’s see what the future holds. If I can spend more time in the car than anywhere else, then I will because it’s my passion.”