Leclerc says he’s spent “three days on the simulator” after Japan to fix F1 qualifying woes

Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari
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Formula 1 is back in China for the very first time since 2019 for what will be the first Sprint weekend of the 2024 season.

56 laps over the 5.451 km of the Shanghai International Circuit that Charles Leclerc is looking forward to, not as much for the race as for qualifying to try and fix his recent woes.

“It’s going to be an interesting weekend, as always,” he commented.

“I think it’s always quite tricky the Sprint weekend and you have no room for mistakes, but I like this.

“It’s even more of a challenge, because qualifying now is a point I need to focus on for putting the tyres in the right window. So I have two qualifyings in Shanghai and two chances to recover.”

Last weekend in Japan the Monegasque managed the tyres of his SF-24 rather brilliantly on a one-stop strategy that took him close to the podium, finishing a very solid P4.

In qualifying, however, he struggled quite a bit and could manage to take no better place than P8 on the Suzuka starting grid. Something he had struggled with the previous weekend in Melbourne as well, where he qualified in 5th. 

Ultimately he finished second behind his teammate in Australia and 4th at the Japanese GP, meaning room for improvement can only be found on Saturdays.

It is surprising, considering one-lap speed is usually exceptional for him.

“Nobody likes being second. I want to win, if there is an opportunity in China I don’t want to lose it,” he explained.

“I stayed three days on the simulator to work on how to turn on the tyres. In China there will be two qualis and two races, with the opportunity to seize many points and I will have to be ready.”

Ferrari seems to be going in the right direction to close the gap from a seemingly uncatchable Red Bull and — after a one-two in Australia and a podium for Carlos Sainz in Japan — Fernando Alonso sees the Scuderia having a strong pace at the upcoming race as the Chinese track is a front-limited one like Albert Park.

Certainly the team has been performing significantly better than Mercedes and is ahead of McLaren as well, who tagged behind Leclerc in Suzuka with Lando Norris finishing the race in P5 .

“I don’t know. I think the picture will be relatively similar to where it is, where Red Bull still have the upper hand. We are the second best team and then the others,” said Leclerc.

“But McLaren wasn’t bad. It was really good today [at Suzuka] and was very close to us, so they are not that far.”