Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has admitted that it was “difficult to accept” the situation that the team was in at the start of the season.
The Maranello-based outfit has endured a tough season following an FIA agreement at the end of last year that forced the team to make changes to its power-unit.
Despite the difficult circumstances, Leclerc has put in a series of incredible performances this season, standing on the podium twice and sitting sixth in the drivers’ championship.
The 23-year-old has been unable to repeat his two Grand Prix victories from 2019 but saw the car become more competitive as the season wore on.
“At the beginning of the season it was difficult to accept the situation we were in,” Leclerc told BBC Sport.
“I’ve always had a dream of being in Ferrari to win races and then I did a first year that was very good. I won my first ever F1 race, which was a dream since I was a child, but I was still at the end of the season a bit disappointed with myself because I did mistakes at some very important moments last year where I would have hoped not to.
“It’s part of the learning curve, so I gave myself a target this year to try and do it in a better way with less mistakes, which I think I achieved. Looking back at the season, I am extremely happy with it, but on the other hand the car was not as good as last year so unfortunately I couldn’t achieve and show as much results-wise how good my season was.
“But thankfully somehow people have still managed to see I was doing a better job than last year even though the results were not as good. It kept me very motivated that people were seeing what I was doing in the car.”
The Monegasque driver was also quick to praise seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who he said “can only be respected”.
Leclerc and Hamilton went wheel-to-wheel at the Italian Grand Prix in 2019 and the former Alfa Romeo peddler said that while he is in the best car this season, his performances show that “he is the best on the grid at the moment”.
“Lewis has been incredible this year,” Leclerc said.
“For me, the most impressive performance this year was Turkey because nobody expected him to be so strong. Everybody expected Lewis to be struggling and at the end, when it mattered, he did it, and he won the championship with a win there, which shows that people who say it is only the car are wrong. Surely he is driving with the best car but performances like this show he is the best on the grid at the moment, so congratulations to him and he has always been so consistent at the top and this can only be respected.”