Charles Leclerc says identifying his weaknesses and addressing “intimidating” changes acted as a vital breakthrough to his rookie Formula 1 campaign at Sauber last year as he prepares for potentially bigger challenges during his Ferrari debut in 2019.

Leclerc was the standout rookie last season by leading Sauber’s charge to its best F1 world constructors’ finish for three years in eighth place.

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The 21-year-old accepts he had a tricky start to his F1 career with disappointing results from his first three races as a struggled to get up to speed in the premier class having graduated as 2017 Formula 2 champion.

The Monegasque driver says understanding his problems over the opening three rounds and losing inhibitions working with a larger team in F1 became key towards his breakthrough race in Azerbaijan.

In a frantic race with multiple clashes, Leclerc kept his cool to charge up to sixth place having qualified in 14th place in Baku.

“Definitely the first three races I’ve learned massively, I’ve worked extremely hard in the first three races just to understand and identify my weaknesses,” Leclerc said. “It was things that were just not going right, and after the first three races we finally understood them within the team and made a big step forward and since then we were quite strong.

“At the beginning it was quite intimidating to speak to so many people because you know that everything you are going to say is going to be analysed not only by engineers but by so many people.

“Not scary but intimidating, then you get used to it, then also the type of feedback you give you can be a lot more precise with everything you say because there’s a lot more people in the background.

“In Formula 2 you try and focus on the main points as there’s only one or two maximum focusing to get the car better, it’s a different approach and it takes a bit of time to get used to it.”

Leclerc faces an even greater challenge in 2019 as he steps up to Ferrari to swap places with Kimi Raikkonen as teammate to four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel.

With both team politics and media scrutiny expected to ramp up for the new season Leclerc is unconcerned by the extra pressure to produce results.

“I haven’t faced too much politics and I just try and be as honest as possible with the media so there’s no politics going on,” he said. “There will always be a little bit but for now I haven’t faced much.”

 

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