Charles Leclerc took a surprise podium finish for Scuderia Ferrari in the opening round of the 2020 Formula 1 season at the Red Bull Ring, with the Monegasque racer capitalising on a five-second time penalty for Lewis Hamilton to finish second.
Having started seventh after both Ferrari drivers struggled for performance in Qualifying trim, Leclerc drove a strong race, making no mistakes and jumping up places when others faltered, including Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, to finish third on the road.
Hamilton’s five-second time penalty for causing a collision with Alexander Albon gifted Leclerc the second step on the podium, and he was quick to praise his team for giving him the car and the strategy to finish inside the top three.
“The team did a fantastic job, both in terms of strategy and with the car itself,” said Leclerc. “We knew we had to make the best of it today.
“I told myself that we had to take any opportunity we had and that’s the way I drove. I am very happy with the result – we didn’t expect to finish in second place.”
Whilst Leclerc was pleased with the podium, he acknowledges that there is plenty of work to do for Ferrari to be truly competitive, as they were embroiled in the midfield for much of the race in Austria rather than challenging the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team for victory.
“While it was great to start off the season with a podium, we cannot ignore the fact that we aren’t where we want to be in terms of performance,” he admitted. “We were lucky this weekend, with safety cars and retirements mixing things up, but we can’t expect to fight for the win at these next few races.
“We have to stay motivated and I am sure that the whole factory is working very hard to bring us back stronger. And that’s the spirit we need to remain focused on our targets.”