Leclerc “knew that pole position and the race win were possible” for Ferrari from FP1 at F1 Australian GP

Photo Credit: Scuderia Ferrari
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Charles Leclerc and the Ferrari team claim that they sensed something special brewing from the moment they hit the track in Friday’s first practice session for the Australian Grand Prix.

From the outset, it was clear that SF-24 had the potential to challenge Max Verstappen around the the Albert Park circuit. 

Sainz’s manoeuvre around the outside of the ailing car of polesitter Max Verstappen on lap two of the race set the stage for a dominant Ferrari race, leading to a spectacular 1-2 finish for the team.

Following Verstappen’s retirement from the race due to a rear-right brake issue, Leclerc and Sainz took this opportunity to showcase what the team have been working towards.

Reflecting on the team’s victory, Leclerc emphasised the significance of Ferrari’s resurgence in the face of formidable competition. He explained how Friday’s first session gave the Scuderia the confidence to believe they could fight Red Bull and Verstappen.

“It’s been a long time since we have had the genuine pace to have Red Bull – I wouldn’t say under control, because we don’t know what was the real pace of Max today, but I will say that from FP1, we knew that pole position and the race win were possible because we had very good tyre degradation, very good pace. That is a very encouraging sign.”

Ferrari’s performance down under signals a resurgence for the team. Facing criticism for pit stop problems and poor strategy calls in the past, the team have showcased their speed and improved performance throughout the beginning of this new season. Their pit stops are now consistently excellent, continuing on from last year.

Despite acknowledging the need for further improvements to challenge the dominance of Red Bull Racing, and Verstappen, consistently, Leclerc believes that Ferrari is on the right track.

“Whenever we have the opportunity to actually win a race, we need to take it, and this weekend we did it, Carlos did it today. On my side, second with the fastest lap, so there are not any more points that we have got.

Leclerc underperformed badly in qualifying as he could only manage P5 on the grid before Sergio Perez’s grid drop. He made a mistake on his final lap in sector 3 after setting two green sectors.

The Monegasque driver struggled with graining on his first set of hard tyres in the middle stint of Sunday’s race.

“I think in qualifying yesterday, I haven’t been good enough.

“In the second stint today, on the first Hard stint, I had quite a bit of graining on the front left after the [Virtual] Safety Car. The last stint was really good, but it wasn’t enough.

Leclerc versus Sainz is comfortably one of the closest teammate battles on the grid.

The 26-year-old conceded the Spaniard did a better job at Albert Park, and he admits it’s hugely beneficial to have such a fast teammate who can get the best out of you.

“Carlos has just been better this weekend. But it’s been that in the last three years, where we basically will arrive at one race and Carlos will be better and then I’ll push and then I’ll be better at the next race and then we’ll improve like that. 

“That’s very exciting as a driver to have such a fast teammate. And he’s really been on it since the beginning of the weekend. So congratulations to Carlos.”