Saturday, March 2, 2024

Leclerc Hoping Ferrari Updates Enable Closer Battles with Aston Martin, Mercedes

Charles Leclerc is looking at this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix to check whether the updates brought to the Canadian Grand Prix are working as expected on a different kind of track compared to two weeks ago.

Scuderia Ferrari had a strong looking weekend at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with Leclerc climbing from tenth on the grid to finish fourth, and Leclerc hopes they can continue their upturn in pace at the Red Bull Ring.

And Leclerc wants Ferrari to be able to fight with the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula 1 Team and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team for best of the rest behind Oracle Red Bull Racing.

“First of all, we want to check, at a different track to Canada, the progress we saw there, where we were able to count on a car that performed consistently in the race,” said Leclerc.  

“If we can confirm the step forward we took in Montreal, then we can race on a regular basis against Aston Martin and Mercedes, which would already be an important step, given that so far this season we have usually had to defend.

“We will have some new parts on the car that we will try in free practice tomorrow and we hope they can help us even more.”

The Monegasque driver acknowledges that a sprint race weekend will favour those who have prepared ahead of the weekend, particularly with only one practice session before the important sessions begin on Friday afternoon.

“The Sprint weekend favours those who have prepared well for the races back in the factory and I think that’s the case for our team,” Leclerc added.  “In general, I like it because every day there’s something important: tomorrow it’s qualifying, then on Saturday it’s the Sprint day and on Sunday the Grand Prix.

“On top of that, I really like this circuit because some parts of it remind me of a karting track.”

Leclerc is also unworried about the potential of rain hitting the Red Bull Ring as he feels Ferrari are just as competitive in mixed conditions as they are in the dry, at least in Qualifying conditions.

“On a qualifying lap in heavy rain, we have seen that we are competitive, just as we are in the dry, so I think we can be in the fight,” he said.  “Our race pace is still an unknown quantity, but as I said, we want to check it on this type of track.”

“The important thing is to stay focussed” – Carlos Sainz Jr.

Team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. echoed the thoughts of Leclerc and says the performance and result in Canada was a confidence boost for Ferrari.

The SF23 proved to be more consistent at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve than it had been previously during the 2023 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season, although Sainz believes the Canadian track ‘probably’ helped them.

“The Canadian Grand Prix was a real confidence boost for everyone in the team including we drivers, because we had a car that performed consistently so that we could push during the race and make up places,” said Sainz.

“I’m sure we made progress in Montreal, even if the track layout probably helped us.  The result there was nothing special, a fourth and a fifth place, but the perception from our point of view was clearly different and I think I can say it was our best race of the season.

“Having said that, it’s hard to see how we can compete at the same level as Red Bull at the moment, despite the upgrades we have brought here. On that topic, I want to thank everyone at Maranello, because they really made a big effort.

“The important thing is to stay focussed and continue to get everything out of the car. This weekend we have the Sprint format, which means it is vital to start off on the right foot right from the only free practice session in the early afternoon tomorrow.”

Carlos Sainz Jr. says the performance, rather than the result, was good for Ferrari in Canada – Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office
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