Autosport (UK)

Charles Leclerc

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Leclerc’s style contains something fascinatin­g. He has a two-stage process – ‘little turn, big turn’. It’s almost like he’s warning the car about what’s coming because he prefers much more rear movement.

He does one turn and almost takes a pause, especially in the medium/low speed, but not so much in the high speed where a driver is just leaning on the downforce. He hates understeer and, whenever it’s an understeer­ing car balance for the weekend for Ferrari, Carlos Sainz typically ends up being quicker. If the rear is as he wants, the way Leclerc turns the wheel is complement­ary. Because when the rear of the car is moving, he does that first steering input to know that the rear is with him. If it is, he can put more lock on. If not, he will have to adjust and slow down in that middle part of the corner.

He’s also balancing with his feet. That first movement tells him how much to modulate the brakes – does he need to hang onto the brakes a bit more, or can he start coming off as he does that more pronounced steering input? When he’s got an understeer­ing balance, he’s got to hold onto the brakes more to get the front to turn.

Leclerc’s steering action is actually very smooth – he’s not throwing it around like a rally car, but the big rear movement does mean some micro-correction­s to balance it out. This will come as a surprise to some, but when Leclerc himself speaks about an aggressive style, it’s again controlled aggression. Yet he will also bully a bit of rotation in and then, when he does, he’s got the confidence and car control to live with the rear.

That all makes him a superb qualifier – maybe even F1’s best. He can extract the maximum amount of performanc­e from the tyre in qualifying, but it does mean he’s closer to the limit of grip. This may explain some of his famous shunts because the car is quite often more on the edge of falling off the cliff of grip than others.

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