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Charles Leclerc says his early Formula 1 experiences have taught him to opt for an understeering balance to extract the best performance from his Alfa Romeo Sauber as he broke into Q2 for the first time in his rookie campaign.

The Monegasque driver produced his best qualifying performance of his debut F1 year with 14th place for Alfa Romeo Sauber, which will become a promoted 13th place on the grid after Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg’s penalty for a gearbox change.

Leclerc says set-up changes to switch from oversteering to understeering balance were pivotal to give him more control and feeling from the C37 and felt his performance was boosted by his and the car’s strong performance on the Baku City Circuit.

“I think the biggest step in all of that is the setup approach that we took for here with a lot more of a stable car,” Leclerc said. “It’s a lot easier to drive for me, a lot easier to push to the limit. This is I think a big step forward. I think a combination of these three things made us do this step.

“We targeted a more understeery balance. It’s a lot easier to drive. I think when we were targeting a more oversteer, I especially like an oversteery balance, but it was very difficult and very unpredictable to drive.

“I made quite a lot of mistakes in the first three races and looking back I think I would probably have changed that from these three races. I think it’s a step forward in that direction. The overall grip is less because we have less downforce, but the actual balance is more understeer.”

Leclerc has warned Alfa Romeo Sauber about celebrating the breakthrough too early as he fears the performance jump may not last at other circuits.

“We need to be careful a little bit and not expect this at every race of the season,” he said. “I think Baku is also a track that suits our car better than others.”

 

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