The 2018 F2 champion quickly found a rhythm though, taking advantage of mistakes from those around him on the opening laps to settle into a third place he wouldn’t relinquish.
Alex Albon was one of those to suffer an error with a spin at Turn 12 putting the Anglo-Thai driver right down the order, as Johnny Herbert followed his lead and spun out of sympathy moments later.
A five-place penalty for a qualifying incident relegated Renault Academy driver Christian Lungaard from first but the Dane was the man to attempt to chase down the lead Leclerc, though he could make no real dent in second.
The order through the pit stop phase remained relatively stable, only the race leader’s impressive pace continuing to grow the gap to the rest, with Ben Stokes and Herbert bringing up the rear by some distance.
Lando Norris’ technical dramas and pre-race disconnection meant Jenson Button was the sole McLaren involved.
The 2009 world champion put on a show though, fighting with Albon as the Red Bull driver came back through the field.
In a battle of youth versus experience JB held on valiantly with little sim-racing hours under the belt. Albon swept round the McLaren in the third DRS zone in their battle for 10th, leaving Button to collect up a mighty tankslapper.
A mistake just two corners later for Albon and slide into the grass gifted the place back to Button.