Charles Leclerc outlines factors for successful Ferrari season

Ferrari were the only non-Red Bull winner in 2023 and hope to improve on that in the coming campaign

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Ahead of the season opener at the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc has set lofty heights for Ferrari as they aim to break Red Bull’s hegemony on Formula 1 by becoming regular race winners.

The Italians were the only team who managed to deliver a non-Red Bull victory in 2023 as Carlos Sainz won the Singapore GP from pole, with Leclerc sacrificing his race in a team-playing strategy.

For the other 21 events, Red Bull were an unstoppable force and rarely seemed challenged by anyone as Max Verstappen cruised to the easiest drivers’ championship of his extraordinary career.

But Leclerc, who hasn’t won since the 2022 Austrian GP, has no intention to hear the Dutch national anthem another 19 times this season and wants Ferrari to become regular features on the top step of the podium whilst continuing their development progression.

“To be challenging for many more wins,” Leclerc told the press, revealing the Ferrari target for a successful season. “It definitely will be a step forward and that will be a positive season.

“I think we need to continue on the positive momentum of the second part of last year, because as much as it’s not been a positive season as a whole because we started much lower than what our expectations were at the beginning of 2023.

“The second part of the year was much more positive, and I think everybody in the team also felt that and around the paddock that we were in a positive spiral and was going towards better things and with a very clear vision of where we wanted to, to go and how to go there.

“And this is exactly how we need to approach the season to continue that way with clear visions and significant steps forward, to every time we put something on the car, which was the case in the second part of last year.”

Charles Leclerc corners for Ferrari at the start of 2024 F1 pre-season testing in Bahrain | @ScuderiaFerrai/X.com
Charles Leclerc corners for Ferrari at the start of 2024 F1 pre-season testing in Bahrain | @ScuderiaFerrai/X.com

Ferrari can force Red Bull into mistakes

With Max Verstappen sitting so comfortably clear of any chasers in 2023, Red Bull admitted that they compromised the qualifying set-up to focus on race pace, which can allow them to look after the tyres a bit more and run a bit more rear-wing to avoid tyre degradation.

Furthermore, as early as the opening race of the season, Verstappen’s engineer was telling him to slow down and hit target lap times to merely maintain the massive gap to his rivals.

This also happened again at the Spanish GP when he was on the edge of a track limits infringement worth a five-second time penalty, but it highlights how easily Red Bull could take their foot off the gas whenever it was most convenient to them.

Max Verstappen illegally forces Ferrari's Charles Leclerc off the track for the lead at turn one of the 2023 Las Vegas GP | Chris Graythen/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen illegally forces Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc off the track for the lead at turn one of the 2023 Las Vegas GP | Chris Graythen/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

So, it stands to reason that they would no longer be able to do this if a team could edge just a little closer, perhaps testing the reliability of the engine and gearbox components or the pressure of the drivers and Leclerc is desperate to find out where the breaking point is.

“I think this is obviously very important,” Leclerc said to media, on being able to push Red Bull. “Because we can see on the TV a situation where we are so far away that in no moments of the race, they [Red Bull] are under pressure.

“It’s much more comfortable place for them in order to obtain any result and to get them in any way.

“If we manage to put them under pressure, that’s where you can play a bit more strategy and force them into mistakes and it will be definitely much more interesting if you manage to do so this year, compared to a year like last year.”

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