F1: Leclerc predicts big Sauber strides in 2019
By Chris Medland | RACER magazine and RACER.com F1 correspondent
Charles Leclerc believes Sauber is facing a bright future in 2019 given the progress the team has made during this season.
Kimi Raikkonen will move to Sauber alongside Antonio Giovinazzi next year, with Leclerc joining Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari. While hoping to be in the fight for victories at Maranello, Leclerc expects his current team to be even more competitive than it has been this year off the back of a first season without back-to-back scoreless races since 2008.
“I don’t think we expected to have such a good end of the season, expecting the end of the development program for this year’s car so early on,” Leclerc said. “So it’s definitely looking good for them for next year, because they’ve had quite a bit of time to develop the car.”
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Part of Leclerc’s confidence comes from the clear step forward Sauber has made compared to 2017, which he believes was masked in the early part of the season by set-up issues.
“I really think the baseline of the car this year was good. I think just in the first three races, we probably didn’t use the full potential because of the balance reason that I explained earlier this year. Once we understood how to balance this car, we really did a huge step up. I think the baseline of the car was already there, already quite good. Then we made some improvements during the season also that made it even better.
“But the car is very impressive compared to last year. We can see it in the results, even now that we have stopped the updates on the car since quite a bit now, we are still keeping the same performance as other teams that are still trying to push a little bit. It’s definitely a strong car.
“Definitely the upgrades were still improving the car, but the biggest jump we’ve made was in Baku when we did a step up with the balance. After that, it was small steps which were always going in the right direction, and as I’ve said in the past, it’s not always a given in Formula 1, it’s definitely not easy to always bring something that goes in the right direction, but that is what they did.”
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