Larger team size the biggest challenge of Ferrari step - Charles Leclerc

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc

Charles Leclerc says adapting to a larger team has been the biggest challenge of his first year as a Ferrari Formula 1 driver.

Long-term Ferrari protégé Leclerc stepped up to Formula 1 in 2018 with Sauber off the back of successive titles in GP3 and Formula 2, and was promoted to a Ferrari seat for 2019.

He took pole position in Bahrain and Austria and came close to a maiden win on both occasions, denied by an engine glitch at Sakhir, before being passed late on by Max Verstappen at Spielberg.

He holds fifth place in the standings, 24 points behind team-mate Sebastian Vettel.

“Obviously being a Ferrari driver is always a dream come true, but it also is quite a lot more work,” said Leclerc.

“You need to work as hard as possible, when you come in to a top team in general, there are a lot of people.

“You need to be understanding and learning how to work with so many people at the beginning coming from a smaller team. This has been the biggest challenge for me.

“I’m very comfortable with the team, they have welcomed me extremely well.

“It has taken a little bit of time for me to get to know all the people in the team, try to understand who is doing what, and this is quite important.

“It takes a bit of time, but it is getting better and better after races.”

Leclerc cut an upbeat figure over his progress during the opening 12 events of his Ferrari career, during which period he has taken five podium finishes.

“I’m happy how the first half of the season went on my side,” reflected Leclerc.

“I’ve grown a lot as a driver. Obviously there have been a few mistakes from which I’ve learned from, but yeah, at the beginning of the season, I think one of my issues was the qualifying pace.

“I was struggling in qualifying, I did quite a lot of effort in it, and I think since a few races now it has got quite a lot better.

“I think the race pace was quite strong from the beginning. There’s definitely some things I can still improve on, and this will be like this until the end of my career, you can always improve.

“But I think in terms of set-up, I can still improve, as I said, this will come with experience, but I also need to try and understand even more the car, and try to lead the engineers in the right direction even better.”