Charles Leclerc’s run of bad luck and poor reliability finally came to an end at this weekend’s Austrian GP, as the Monegasque stormed his way to his first victory starting outside of pole position, and overtaking title rival Max Verstappen three times in doing so. And whilst his race went smoothly for the most part, there were some rather tense moments in the last few laps, as a problem with his throttle pedal emerged shortly after he saw team-mate Carlos Sainz retiring with a fiery engine failure.
Speaking after the race, Leclerc praised the strong pace he and his Ferrari team showed on race day, which allowed him to fight with Verstappen for the first time since the Miami GP and ultimately win out.
“It was a really good race. The pace was there, [and] at the beginning we had some good fights with Max [Verstappen].
“I definitely needed that [win]. I mean, the last five races have been incredibly difficult for myself, but also for the team obviously, and to finally show that we’ve got the pace in the car and that we can do it is incredible, so we need to push until the end.”
The Monegasque pointed out that he spent Saturday night working on aspects of his driving, and that he is glad the work paid off on Sunday afternoon to win the race:
“I worked quite a bit on my driving yesterday night, and I knew where to improve – especially on that medium stint, to be able to have the pace but also the good [tyre] management, and I think we’ve shown that perfectly today, which was great, and that’s where we did the big, big difference in the race.
“Then on the hard [tyres], we were quick, but there was no degradation, so everybody was quite a bit closer [in pace]. I’m very happy that the hard work of yesterday night paid off today.”
Despite the strong pace on show, reliability was once again a concern for the Scuderia on the final few laps, with a throttle pedal problem hitting Leclerc shortly after he saw team-mate Sainz retire with a spectacular engine failure. Leclerc said he had Sainz’s issue on his mind, but is glad that it held off until the chequered flag.
“The end [of the race] was incredibly difficult. I had this problem with the throttle and it would get stuck at 20 or 30% throttle in the low-speed, so it was very tricky. But we managed to make it stick until the end and I am so, so happy.
“Weirdly, it was more or less at the same time, so of course I had it in my mind. I knew it was not a problem with engine because it was really the pedal that was feeling weird – first at pick up, and then at the end it would not come back to zero (acceleration), but luckily it went until the end of the race.
“Especially [in] turns three and four, [it] was a disaster, because the car was pushing a lot, with the throttle being extremely inconsistent. I just had to manage it, but at the end I got to the finish line and in first position, so [I am] very happy.
Now only 38 points behind Verstappen in the drivers’ championship, Leclerc is wary that reliability is still “a concern” for his Ferrari team and something to be worked on for the rest of the season.
“Obviously, as a team it is a concern the reliability, and today it shows even more that it is a concern. We really need to look into that to make sure that it doesn’t happen again during the season,” he concluded.