Charles Leclerc admits he was surprised to have been able to stick with the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo in the opening stint of the F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Leclerc could not continue his run of qualifying fourth as he did at the Eifel and Portuguese Grands Prix, only managing P7 in qualifying.

The Ferrari driver appeared to have better race pace this time out at Imola, pressuring Ricciardo in the opening stint.

 

 

Despite immense pressure from Sergio Perez, who stopped for fresh rubber under the Safety Car, Leclerc managed to hold onto fifth place.

Reflecting on his race, Leclerc said: “I am quite happy. I mean before the race if you would have told me we’d finish P5 then I’d be very happy because I think we were quite worried about our pace on the soft especially at the beginning of the race and this went a lot better than expected because I think we were maybe a bit quicker than Daniel towards the end so we managed them well.

“But then, looking back at the race I believe they were a bit more here and there, I would have probably hoped to stay a bit longer on that soft but it’s the way it is. As I said, I think it’s a good surprise to be fighting so far up today. I am satisfied with P5.”

While Ferrari may be some way off Mercedes in terms of performance, Leclerc is optimistic about the Italian manufacturer’s future given how it has responded to adversity in 2020.

“This is I think is the most positive thing in the last three, four weeks,” Leclerc added. “We’ve brought small steps all the time but always in the right direction. Whenever we had an issue we analysed it and we seemed to get it better at the race afterwards so to see this progress and the way that once we analysed something we managed to get better at it is a good sign for the future.

“Obviously, we need to continue that way. There’s still a long road ahead looking at the Mercedes for example.”