BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 20: Second placed Arthur Leclerc of Monaco and Prema Racing (4) celebrates on the podium during the Round 1:Sakhir Feature Race of the Formula 3 Championship at Bahrain International Circuit on March 20, 2022 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images)
F3: The Big Weakness That Arthur Leclerc Needs To Fix
Arthur Leclerc is currently tied for the lead of the Formula 3 Championship with Victor Martins. But with seven rounds still to go, he has his work cut out for him.
Arthur Leclerc and Victor Martins are both in their second seasons of Formula 3, so equal experience in the category puts them on a level playing ground. But while Martins finished fifth in the 2021 standings, Leclerc was only in tenth. On top of that, Martins outscored his nearest teammate by 38 points, while Leclerc was the lowest placed PREMA driver.
The reason for this discrepancy isn’t necessarily that Leclerc isn’t talented. He’s a polesitter and a multiple-time race winner in Formula 3. But something is missing from his repertoire, something he desperately needs to fix if he’s going to remain in the lead of the championship.
Leclerc is well known for his epic charges through the field on a Saturday or a Sunday. It’s been an impressive show of race pace, not to mention entertaining to watch. But while passing upwards of half the grid every race is no small feat, the question has to be asked: what is he doing to end up behind all those other cars?
In 2021, Leclerc had an average qualifying position of 13th. He was on pole position once that season in Hungary. But more often than not, he qualified outside the top 12, the places you need to qualify to be a part of the reverse grid system.
As a result, Leclerc was consistently starting farther back on the grid, often for all three races in a round. Then, in the races, he’d inevitably work his way back up the field in an impressive show of overtaking.
Notably in 2021, after failing to set a lap time in Qualifying at Le Castellet, Leclerc made up 18 places to 12th in the first race. This finish put him on reverse grid pole for the second race, which he won. However, it was back to the tail end of the grid for the Feature Race. Leclerc repeated his performance from the day before and finished 13th.
These kinds of performances became a trend for Leclerc’s season: poor qualifying results followed by impressive damage limitation in the races. It earned him a decent amount of praise, but only tenth place in the final standings.
2022 So Far
Leclerc has the car and the race pace to win the Formula 3 title. But if he truly wants to stay in the championship fight, he’s going to have to step his qualifying game way up.
True to form, Leclerc qualified 14th in the first round of the 2022 season. Also true to form, he finished fifth in the Sprint Race and second in the Feature Race, gaining a total of 21 places throughout the weekend.
In Imola for Round 2, Leclerc qualified 21st, namely due to an incident with Enzo Trulli. In the Sprint Race, he worked his way to 13th. The Feature Race continued to see him overtake other drivers all the way up to fourth. That’s 16 places made up in just one race!
To his credit, not all of Leclerc’s poor qualifying results have been his fault (e.g. Imola). But the more he has to keep clawing his way up the grid in sprint and feature races, the more people are going to ask why he’s always in that position where he needs to make up so many places.
Yes, two rounds in and Leclerc is tied for the championship lead. But, with plenty of races left to go, he’ll have to continually qualify well to consistently outperform his rivals. With so many talented drivers in the field, there’s a lot of competition to contend with and almost no room for error.
If Leclerc wants to stay anywhere near the lead of the championship, he has to work to become a driver who can perform day in and day out of a race weekend, not just in the races. He has the pace, he just needs the consistency.
Feature Image Credit: Getty Images
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