“Everything is based on the last race” — Charles Leclerc on the current analysis of F1 performances

Photo Credit: Scuderia Ferrari
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Two weeks since the 2024 F1 Australian Grand Prix, and Carlos Sainz has dominated the media headlines.

Sainz won the race in Australia, after overtaking an ailing Max Verstappen, who later had to retire because of a structural issue with his right rear brake.

The Spaniard had qualified P2, while Charles Leclerc had to make do with a P4 start following a very scruffy session.

The 26-year-old found himself on the podium at the end of the Grand Prix in P2, but evidently at not the position he would’ve hoped for, once the Red Bull of Max Verstappen was out of contention.

The Monégasque driver was quick to reiterate during the media day in Suzuka that he had a less than ideal Q3 lap.

But he also reminded everyone of the job he had been doing in qualifying before that as he had been P1 or P2 on the grid at seven consecutive events. He had also outqualified Sainz in the previous 8 meetings where they were teammates.

“I’ve had some very, very good qualifying before that. I think it was seven first rows in a row, which is a good thing,” the Ferrari driver stated, refering to his streak of front-row starts which started in Austin last year.

“However, in Australia I didn’t do a good job on the Saturday.”

He goes onto explain that with a less-than-ideal starting position, Leclerc’s entire race strategy was affected by pitting on lap 9 to cover off Oscar Piastri and the threat of an undercut.

It forced the 5-time Grand Prix winner to do a long middle stint on the hards, losing a lot of time to Sainz who pitted 7 laps later thanks to the advantage he had built early on.

“Then on Sunday I’m less worried. I think the second stint was quite a bit compromised by our race situation. We had to pit early because of Lando and Oscar at the beginning of the race.

“And then the second stint was very long, so of course it was a bit more difficult to manage that second stint. But I think that was more down to what I had done wrong on the Saturday.”

Leclerc confessed that he went for a different approach in Q3 to get the maximum performance — a calculated risk that did not pay out.

“I tried something in Q3 that didn’t work out and it’s the way it is. I’m sure we’ll recover from that.

Whilst crediting teammate Sainz for the job he’s done when Red Bull has slipped up, Leclerc believes bagging big points each weekend is vital in launching a championship bid. He has finished in P4, P3 and P2 to begin the 2024 season.

“I mean, in our life I say that I am happy with that, of course not. But wins are important, points at the end of the season are even more so.

“However, I want to win and I want to be back at winning as soon as possible.

“Carlos has done an amazing job in the two opportunities we had, and now it’s up to me to react and to hopefully win the next one. That’s the target, but I am working flat out for that.”

Leclerc also did not hesitate to mention the short-term memories which exist in Formula One — a phenomenon we discussed at length on Pit Debrief as a reaction to the coverage of Sainz’s win in Australia.

“At the end of the day, I think in Formula 1 very quickly people tend to forget and everything is based on the last race.”

“But if I look at my last eight, nine races, I think they have been at a very good level,” added Leclerc. ”However, in most of those races, the car was not possible to win. But it’s up to me to be there whenever there is the opportunity that arises.

“And the fact is that I haven’t been doing so in Singapore and in the last race. But I will keep pushing, of course.

“However, the fact that Carlos won’t be in Ferrari next year doesn’t add pressure or anything. My goal is always to try and win.”

Charles Leclerc is currently P2 in the 2024 Driver’s Championship, four points behind the reigning Formula One World Champion, Max Verstappen.