Charles Leclerc pinpoints Ferrari’s big step forward compared to ‘worst test ever’

Charles Leclerc finished sixth on the second day of F1 testing in Bahrain while Carlos Sainz was first for Ferrari

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Charles Leclerc gushed that Ferrari‘s new car feels considerably better than at 2023 pre-season testing, and said the team has a clear development direction set for 2024 after three productive days in Bahrain.

Leclerc suffered a disrupted second day of testing thanks to damage from a loose drain cover – a familiar story for Ferrari – but ended it sixth while teammate Carlos Sainz got the evening session and topped the timesheets, almost a second ahead of Red Bull.

And while he conceded that Red Bull were still the team to beat, Leclerc believes Ferrari have dramatically improved their tyre wear issues from 12 months ago.

“Let’s wait and see next Friday and then I’ll tell you if it’s positive or not,” Leclerc told the media in Bahrain. “But last year was probably the worst ever test I’ve had in my entire career, this year it’s better.

“It’s still very difficult to understand exactly where we are but we have gone through our programme, I think the first good thing is that there are no surprises. Everything that we expected from this car, we felt it.

“So that is a good thing because that helps us to develop the car on the simulator and everything seems to make sense. My first feeling is that Red Bull is still quite a bit ahead but we have a much stronger base compared to last year.

“I remember last year I finished the test and it was very difficult to understand which direction to develop.”

Leclerc: Positivity doesn’t mean we’ll win

Charles Leclerc during Day 2 of F1 testing 2024 | @F1 / X.com

Leclerc was at pains to stress that he still believes Ferrari are behind Red Bull, but that they are closer and have more chance of narrowing that gap over the course of the season.

Max Verstappen appeared along Leclerc in the lunchtime press conference and joked that it would’ve been a pretty bad job by Red Bull if they had taken a step back from 2023, when they won 21 out of 22 races.

However, Perez didn’t appear as dialled into the RB20 as the reigning triple-world champion, finishing well off the pace of Sainz on day two and also running behind on their race simulations.

“From the first lap on the simulator, it felt like an easier car to drive,” Leclerc added. “Because the [2023] car was so inconsistent, it was very difficult to understand what were the main weaknesses, this year is a very different story.

“We know exactly where we need to improve, the main weaknesses of this car and this gives us a bit more hope for the development of the car.

“I am confident that we definitely did a step forward in terms of tyre management because whenever tyres are more used, you can feel the weaknesses of the car more. And with the characteristics of this car, it should be it should be quite a bit better.

“But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll win a lot, that doesn’t mean anything compared to Red Bull. So we still have to work a lot and then we’ll see how competitive we are next Friday.”

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, and previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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