Charles Leclerc says he eventually opted to adapt Ferrari’s SF90 to his driving style, rather than the other way around, having initially felt "intimidated" by the step up to the team early in the season.
Leclerc joined Ferrari for 2019 – having spent just one year with Sauber – and has led the team’s charge in recent grands prix, finishing on the podium in Canada, France, Austria and Britain.
He is now only three points behind Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel in the standings.
Ahead of the German Grand Prix Leclerc revealed that a change in approach prior to the French Grand Prix, having felt uneasy at making demands, had a subtle but useful impact on his results.
“I think before France, it was more myself that was adapting to the car,” he said.
“After that I think changed a little bit the approach, and I think I adapted the car a little bit which enabled to drive me a little bit more naturally, which helped me.
“Arriving in such a big team, when I arrived it was only my second year in Formula 1 and you are a little bit intimidated, I was a little bit intimidated and just to arrive and straight away say ‘I want this, this and this’ was not the way I wanted to start this relationship.
“So at first, I wanted to understand the car, try to adapt my driving as much as possible to the car.
“I think at one point I managed to do good things adapting my driving style but then I felt there was more performance by trying to put the car a little bit more into my direction and this has helped the performance a bit since then.”
Leclerc also feels that the rear end stability in the SF90, after early understeer was dialled out, does not affect him as much compared to Vettel.
“To be completely honest on that point, I struggle or feel it less,” said Leclerc.
“He’s complaining a little bit about entering stability which it doesn’t affect me as much. But yeah we are trying to… These are the weaknesses and we know them, and we are trying very hard to try and fix them as soon as possible.
“At the end I feel comfortable with the car, it has some weaknesses but in the end I think Seb has done very good races too, maybe he hasn’t been so lucky in the last few ones but I’m very sure soon he will be back on top, it’s just a matter of time.
“At the moment I just feel good in the car, happy with the car. As I said, we still need to be working, especially on our race pace and that is what we are doing to make improvements soon.”
On the feel and development of Ferrari’s SF90, Vettel said: “I think it is normal that sometimes you feel comfortable and sometimes you feel less.
“I think for us it was important after the first couple of races what caused this inconsistency and where the strength of this initial feeling with this car has gone and why we are not able to repeat it how we would like.
“We do have a very good understanding now and I think we are trying a lot of things to try to make it better and the right direction.
“I think some things we’ve done very good and other things we went back on. Obviously there are some things this year that are maybe different than before but nothing you cannot adapt to.”