The new term starts in Bahrain over the weekend, but expectations will not be high for Ferrari, who suffered their worst season in 40 years in 2020.
Leclerc managed two podium finishes last season – in Austria and at Silverstone – but he sounded pessimistic about his team’s chances this time around despite declaring his intention to over-achieve relative to outsiders’ views.
“I know that, being realistic, it’s going to be a very difficult season,” he said, per Republic World.
“For me, if I’ve got a car where I feel like sixth is the best place we can do – I’m not saying it’s the case for this year it’s just an example – but if sixth is the best I can do, I’m extremely motivated to try and do third, second or first.
“So whatever we expect from us, I’m always finding the motivation to try to exceed those expectations, and that’s the way I will approach the season.”
Leclerc is fifth favourite to win the 2021 Championship, after finishing eighth last year. New team-mate Carlos Sainz finished sixth in the 2020 standings while driving with McLaren, with Sebastian Vettel – who has left Ferrari for Aston Martin – only 13th in the championship.
Vettel’s departure leaves Leclerc as the number one driver for Ferrari and his practice run in Bahrain on Friday saw the French racer come in fifth.