Leclerc: SF-23 has to be understeery as “it’s extremely inconsistent” when set up with oversteer

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Charles Leclerc heads into the Qatar Grand Prix weekend on the back of a strong weekend at Suzuka. The Monegasque driver qualified and finished P4 as he produced a solid performance in spite of the limitations that the SF-23 has.

On media day ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying session for Sunday’s race, the 25-year-old went into detail once again about the deficiencies with this year’s package.

Although he was happy with his performance at Suzuka, the car limitations will not change until next year.

“Honestly, it’s been like this since the beginning of the season. Sometimes tracks work a little bit better, others a little bit less.

“I wouldn’t say that it’s a breakthrough and from that moment onwards it will help because the issues of the car are still there.

“I think we need maybe a complete new car for it to get rid of it [understeer]. And that is the target for next year.”

Leclerc admitted that while they could set up the car to be oversteery, the SF-23 is far too inconsistent to handle that. It means the car has to be dialled in with understeer. That is something that doesn’t suit the 5-time Grand Prix winner.

“Yes, this year obviously I’m working quite a bit on it because at the moment our car, it’s not that it cannot be oversteery, we can set it up as any car on the oversteery side, but whenever it’s oversteery it’s extremely inconsistent. So we have to drive it on the understeery side, and that makes it quite difficult for me to use my driving style in order to extract lap time.

“So I try to improve and to understand what are the ways for me to use my driving style in a different way. It’s worked a bit more in Japan, but I wouldn’t say it will make a huge difference for the rest of the year.”

Ferrari have come back strong since the summer break, winning the Singapore Grand Prix with Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard also stood on the podium at Monza, with Leclerc backing that up by finishing 4th at the team’s home race.

After another P4 at the Japanese Grand Prix, Leclerc admits he has mostly positive feelings. He is encouraged by the progress the Scuderia have made since the Dutch Grand Prix, but the Monegasque is also aware that Red Bull are still a long way clear. He finished 44s behind race winner Max Verstappen 11 days ago.

“A bit of both, I guess. On one side you always need to look at yourself, and I think since the second part of the season, since Zandvoort, we’ve learnt a lot, so on that we are happy.

“Of course we also understand that Red Bull is still very far ahead, McLaren also

has its peak and when they have their peak they are extremely strong like they were in Suzuka.

“But all in all I think we are more happy with what we’ve learnt than [feel] depressed with the distance to Red Bull, because I think with what we’ve learnt we can do a significant step in the future, which hopefully will help us to close the gap to Red Bull as soon as possible.”

Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari