Leclerc says Ferrari must improve “extremely peaky” SF-23

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A year ago, Ferrari got themselves into an incredible position in the championship after Charles Leclerc blew the field away to win and set fastest lap at the Australian Grand Prix. The Monegasque driver found himself 34 points clear of Russell in the Drivers’ Championship. following the race last year, with Ferrari 39 clear of Mercedes on the Constructors’ side.

“Yeah, good memories. Last year has good memories, as we can see on the images now. Everybody was really happy,” said Leclerc on last year’s crushing win on media day at Albert Park.

However, things soon turned sour, and Ferrari have only won two of the next twenty-one races since that Sunday last April. Leclerc is realistic about where his team stands coming into this event.

“For this year, we are not coming into this race in the same situation as we were last year,” he stated. “Clearly our performance is not as good as last year. But we are working massively to try and come back at the front. I don’t think there will be any miracles for this weekend.

“But after that we’ve got a three-week break [to Baku], and we’ll try to use it in the best way possible in order to bring upgrades as quickly as possible on the car.”

In the hands of Leclerc, the SF-23 has shown impressive qualifying speed as the 25-year-old was P3 on the grid at the Bahrain Grand Prix and second fastest on Saturday in Saudi Arabia.

Race pace has been a clear issue for both cars, though. Over the course of a longer distance, the Aston Martin has been far better at looking after its tyres. Fernando Alonso passed Carlos Sainz on merit in Bahrain for what was ultimately P3, and the raw pace advantage was even more apparent on race day in Jeddah. Mercedes also outpaced Ferrari last time out.

“I think that in qualifying, we’ve been quite good since the beginning of the season,” said Leclerc. “Where we need to focus on is the race where our car is extremely peaky.

“When all the conditions are right, we seem to be able to extract the performance out of our package but whenever the conditions are changing a little bit, with a heavier car where you see a little bit more the limitations of the car, then that’s where we struggle. So we are trying to focus on that.

“I do believe that we’ll be quite close in qualifying – I hope so – but I think that the picture in the race will be quite similar.”

Leclerc is hoping for a more consistent performance from his machinery as soon as possible to ignite their season.

“Honestly, it is just to try and have a more solid car in all the conditions, just because we seem to be quite good in terms of qualifying whenever the peak grip is there,” he stated. “But then, whenever we lose a little bit of grip in the race, then it starts to be very, very difficult and we seem to lose quite a lot of performance, so on that we need to work.”

Photo: Scuderia Ferrari