Charles Leclerc has played down any chances of Ferrari securing their second consecutive victory of 2023 at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
After 14 races of Red Bull domination, the reigning world champions were beaten in Singapore, with Carlos Sainz taking a famous victory from Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton.
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez could only manage fifth and eighth at Singapore, but Red Bull are expected to return to the front on a permanent circuit.
“It’s very difficult to predict any team’s performance this year because it’s just varying so much from track to track,” explained Leclerc to the media.
“We did not expect Red Bull [to] struggle that much in Singapore. We did not expect us to be that quick in Singapore. I hope the surprise will be a good surprise for us this weekend.
“However, I think we expect Red Bull to be obviously [at the] front and then a close fight with McLaren and Mercedes. It’s been the case for the whole year.
“Every hundred [of a second] makes a difference. So very difficult to predict for now. But we’ll do our best to be the best of the rest.”
Surprised at Verstappen lack of penalty
Verstappen had drawn the ire of his fellow drivers during qualifying in Singapore after stopping on the exit of the pits when the light was green in Q1, blocking drivers who wanted to secure their spot for Q2.
Surprisingly, Verstappen, who was also under investigation for two impeding incidents on track, was only given a reprimand for the pitlane incident and kept his 11th place on the grid.
“Yeah, I was a bit surprised,” admitted Leclerc when asked if he was surprised Verstappen didn’t get a grid penalty. “Especially the one in the pit lane.
“Because that could open [up] quite bad situations in the future, but it’s always an open discussion with the FIA and trying to explain [to] them what our point of view is [to] improve.
“And I’m sure we’ll have that discussion tomorrow evening [in] the briefing.”