Arthur Leclerc, Ferrari Driver Academy

Leclerc: ‘Need to be a bit more clever’ to manage F3 title challenge

The FIA Formula 3 Championship’s summer break in August gave drivers an important opportunity to disconnect from racing as well as a chance to reflect on how their 2022 seasons have gone with six of nine rounds completed.

By Michael McClure

At a media roundtable ahead of Round 7 at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, F1 Feeder Series asked three of this F3 season’s star drivers about what they wanted to improve going into the final stretch of the season.

Hadjar: Managing longer races

Having taken three wins and scored points in all but two races this year, rookie Isack Hadjar has had a miraculous season to be tied for the championship lead. The biggest adjustment for the Red Bull junior has been the change from the 30-minute races of Formula Regional, in which he competed in 2021 in Europe and over the winter of 2022 in Asia, to the 40- and 45-minute races of F3.

“Going from Regional to F3, the races are much longer. You have more tyre [degradation], so I would say that the beginning of the season, I was sometimes rushing a bit too much, first on the tyres and also on my overtaking management, let’s say.”

That overtaking management issue came to the fore at Imola, where Hadjar clashed with Caio Collet on the last lap while attempting an overtake for second place at Tamburello. His subsequent trip across the gravel dropped him down to fifth and promoted Victor Martins, with whom Hadjar is tied on points, to the podium.

“In Imola and Barcelona, I was having good Sprint Races, but I was [having] focus issues. I had a kind of hard moment with the others on track, which cost me a few points. But I would say I improved a bit on this point.”

Leclerc: Focussing on the championship

As his dominant victory in Silverstone proved, the Arthur Leclerc of 2022 has been a substantial step up from the raw and mercurial driver we saw last season. While Leclerc has taken seven top-five race finishes this season and four out of six such results in Qualifying, he also acknowledged that he had neglected the championship, in which he is currently third overall on 95 points.

“I think I need to maybe be focused a bit more on the championship at this stage of the season. I think that has been my weakness in the last race and in the season as well because when you look at Qualifying, we are doing a very good job. Race pace is amazing as well.”

Leclerc is referencing his last-lap collision in the Sprint Race at the Hungaroring, which occurred when he lunged down the inside of Jak Crawford at Turn 12, lost control under braking, and punted his American teammate out of fourth place. After running wide at the following corner and being helped into a spin by Martins, Leclerc dropped out of the points himself and trundled home 27th with a broken left-front suspension.

“I just need to be a bit more clever in some situations,” he said. “It’s completely new for me to be a title contender, so of course, you can understand maybe these kinds of mistakes in the beginning, but it cannot stay for too long.”

Maini: Mastering the rules

The driver in front of Leclerc and Crawford when they came to blows was Kush Maini, who went on to take his maiden F3 podium a few corners later. That podium might have come sooner, Maini admitted, if it hadn’t been for a series of penalties early in the season that took him out of front-running positions.

Among those were a disqualification from third place in Qualifying in Bahrain that required him to start from the pit lane in both races. In Imola, he had to serve a drive-through penalty while running fifth for lining up outside of his grid box.

“I would probably say the rulebook – just lost too many points at the start of the year with silly mistakes which were avoidable. But I think the last few rounds have been quite smooth. I think pace has been really good most of the rounds.

“Race pace was a small part to work on, but I think we’ve sorted it, and I’m feeling confident for these last three rounds.”

Header photo credit: Prema Racing

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