Just a few minutes after 1 pm last Sunday at the Hungaroring, we had the opportunity to have a chat with F3’s Arthur Leclerc. Arthur is the younger brother of Charles Leclerc and he is part of the Ferrari Junior Academy.
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Arthur Leclerc raced in the European Formula Regional championship for Prema Powerteam last year – finishing second overall, then moved up to Formula 3, sticking with the Italian team. The 20-year-old Monegasque driver currently sits eighth in the drivers’ championship with nine races to go.
Arthur, you scored your maiden pole position, then finished on the podium in race 3. Are you satisfied with the weekend?
All in all, I think it was a good weekend for us. I’m especially happy about the qualifying as it was our weak point at the beginning of the season, but fortunately, we managed to improve our quali pace. We have still lots of work to do but I’m happy with the progress we’ve made. I had a different approach to qualifying this weekend and it seemed to work pretty well as I scored my first pole in F3. I hope we can do the same in Spa after the summer break. The results of races 1 and 2 are a bit of a shame but we also had to take the penalty for the incident I had in the previous round in Austria. Then, race 3 finally went well and we managed to finish on the podium, which is positive.
We are more than halfway through the season now, how could you evaluate 2021 from your point of view?
We had quite a difficult start to the season, unfortunately, we didn’t have the best of luck at the beginning. I mean the puncture in Barcelona, then we had several technical issues in the following races, there were some mistakes from my side as well, so it was far from ideal – let’s say. I think the most important thing for me as a rookie is to improve race by race, keep working and keep improving my performance.
How different is Formula 3 compared to the previous categories you raced before?
First of all, the grid is much bigger than in lower categories where I raced before – we have a total of 30 drivers in F3. The competition is high, all the drivers are extremely talented. I also have a more experienced teammate next to me which makes my job more difficult.
Many of the drivers said during the weekend that they like racing here at the Hungaroring. What about you, do you enjoy driving in Hungary?
Yes, absolutely. It was my first time racing here this weekend, so I had to discover the track on Friday. To be honest with you, I had quite a lot of difficulties during free practice but it worked out pretty well for the quali. It’s a very technical track with many corners that keep you concentrated all the time. You need to be focused on the hot lap because it’s easy to do mistakes. It’s a challenging one, but I like it! [smiles]
You’re part of the Ferrari Junior Academy. How much support does that mean to you?
I get huge support from Ferrari – no doubt. I go to Maranello after each race weekend and consult with the engineers. I have the opportunity to work together with the F1 engineers which help me massively to broaden my horizons. They even help me on how to improve my driving style and how to approach a race weekend in the best possible way. I think we can work together pretty well, my relationship with Ferrari is good – let’s hope we’ll get there.
Who was your hero when you were a child, watching F1 on TV?
When I was I little child and I was watching Formula 1, it was always the red car winning with Michael. Sometimes I woke up early just to watch the Grand Prix – it’s crazy. If there was an idol, that must be Ayrton Senna. My father was also a huge fan of him and I watched the documentary about Ayrton several times. I can tell you the whole story of the Ayrton Senna documentary by heart if you wish. [smiles] I’ve always loved motorsports and my whole life was about racing. I’m really happy to be here and have to opportunity to do what I love most. I just need to give in everything and yeah… I just love it!
I wonder if Charles can give some useful tips for you with his experience, is he also like a mentor for you?
I wouldn’t say he is a mentor for me – he is my brother. [smiles] Obviously, I admire Charles as a driver and as a brother but that’s the same with my oldest brother, Lorenzo as well. We are supporting each other, we work together at Ferrari and when we are away from the race track, we don’t always speak about motorsport.
We know you’re quite familiar with simulators – could you tell us what are the main differences between a home setup and a pro, highly engineered simulator?
I also have a simulator at home – which is not on the same level as real driving or a pro simulator. In my opinion, none of the simulators can give you the feeling that you get when driving a car for real as you don’t feel the speed and the G-forces. Moreover, the effect of grip level, the additional factors like the weather: wind and temperature can’t be simulated – it will never be the same as in reality I think. On the other hand, simulators provide you with great fun and it’s a useful tool when learning a new track.