Leclerc admits Red Bull may be “difficult to catch” before 2026 as Ferrari works on F1 consistency

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It’s out with the old and in with the new at Ferrari, following the departures of figures who had worked under the previous team principal, such as Laurent Mekies and David Sanchez. Frederic Vasseur has been on an active recruiting campaign over the past few months, most recently signing Loïc Serra, Mercedes’s performance director.

Vasseur is optimistic that his new hires will help take the team in the right direction, particularly in terms of car development.

Speaking to the media ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix weekend, Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc said he trusts his team’s technical division, but acknowledged that it will take some time before these changes start yielding visible results.

Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari

“I mean, we have already some really, really good engineers within the team. I think new people will only help to have different points of view and help us grow even better.

“But then apart from all of this, obviously looking at the gap there is from Ferrari to Red Bull, on race days especially… this requires time. We need some time to get back to that level of performance.”

Asked whether he thinks anyone can match Red Bull’s current level of performance, Leclerc admitted that the Austrian team’s dominance might not be fully curbed until the next significant regulation cycle in 2026.

“That’s what we are trying to work towards but, for sure, they have a really big margin,” he said. “It’s going to be very, very difficult to catch them before the change of regulations.”

Commenting on Red Bull’s dominance, Leclerc noted that while several drivers may be in contention for top positions in qualifying, the performance gap feels practically insurmountable in the actual races.

“I just think it’s different than in the past in the way that in qualifying we are all much closer than what we have seen in the past.

“Normally when we see a team dominating, it was qualifying and the race. But now, for some reason with Red Bull, it’s much more in the race than in qualifying—the gaps are much bigger in the race than in qualifying. And that’s why we are all working towards our race pace, because Red Bull is just so far ahead,” Leclerc explained.

“There’s still a lot of work to do. We have some developments in the next few races that can help us do a step forward.

“But also with this car, we can have some unexpected surprise because they are such sensitive cars that a small change can have a big influence. And hopefully it will be the case for us.”

Leclerc also touched on the team’s goals, both long-term and more immediate, as Ferrari looks ahead to the remaining rounds of the 2023 season.

“The short term goals are not that exciting. However, we need to focus on the short term goals in order to achieve our long term goals—which is to get back to winning races.”

The Monégasque highlighted the importance of consistency, especially given McLaren’s recent resurgence and the threat Mercedes and Aston Martin continue to pose.

Mercedes in particular has benefited from its consistent form, currently sitting P2 in the Constructors’ standings, with just a single point separating Lewis Hamilton and early-season sensation Fernando Alonso, who is currently third in the Drivers’ Championship.

Fourth-placed Ferrari will need to consistently score in the upcoming rounds in order to fight for third with current closest rivals, Aston Martin.

“For now, I think the short term goal is to improve our consistency. Because if you look at the first part of the season, at McLaren, Mercedes, Aston Martin and ourselves, everybody is really inconsistent. One race McLaren is going to be on top by quite a bit, the other race it’s going to be us or Mercedes that is going to be on top.

“If we manage to find what we have in the car that gives us the consistency to always be on top of our game, this will give us a big upper hand compared to the other teams.

“So that’s where we need to focus on at the moment. And then of course the overall performance to try and close the gap to Red Bull, but that will be a bit later on.”