Leclerc “happy” with F1 Japanese GP performance; McLaren “faster than us”

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After a challenging qualifying session in Suzuka, both Ferrari drivers faced the daunting task of keeping pace with the fast McLarens while simultaneously fending off the advances of the Mercedes cars.

Starting from fourth place, Charles Leclerc led the charge for Ferrari and made a daring late pass on the outside of George Russell at turn 2 to bolster the team’s performance.

Charles Leclerc

Photo Credit: Scuderia Ferrari

Speaking post-race, the Monagasque driver admitted that despite glimpses of hope that Ferrari could contend with the McLarens, it became evident that they possessed race pace at Suzuka, saying:

“The McLarens were really strong today. There wasn’t much we could have done better.

“At one point I thought we could fight with the McLaren, but, Lando started to push and he was much faster than us, and Oscar, at the end of the stint he was pushing and he was also faster than us.

“We know that in this kind of track they are very strong, so it’s not a surprise, but we definitely need to understand what they are doing so good especially in the first sector in the high speed, they are much stronger than us.

“I had to be really aggressive on the pass to George in order to not lose too much time, and that worked well, and then just managed my tyres to the end, so I’m happy with today’s performance.”

When asked about the importance of securing second place in the constructors’ standings ahead of Mercedes, Leclerc acknowledged Mercedes’ strength, particularly in the race, but he still suggested that the Maranello-based team can secure the position, adding: “I mean they are strong, especially in the race today, they were on it and they put us under a bit of pressure at the end.

“Splitting the cars too was an interesting strategy, so they are strong in the race especially. In the qualifying they are a bit more inconsistent, but it’s going to be a very close fight.

“In the race we are a bit more inconsistent, they are in qualifying, but I have a feeling inside me that we have learned a few things in the last weekends that hopefully will give us the upper hand for the rest of the season.”