[Leclerc: Ferrari 2024 F1 car promise outweighs any depression over Red Bull form
With his Maranello squad having unlocked some key understandings of its car since the Dutch GP, its form was also lifted recently by a new floor that arrived in Japan.
It was able to edge ahead of main rival Mercedes at Suzuka, as the two teams lock horns in the fight for second in the championship.
However, Red Bull’s total runaway pace in Japan has left its rivals in no doubt about the gulf that still exists between them and F1’s benchmark outfit.
Asked by Motorpsort.com if the mood at the moment was one of encouragement at its own car progress, or depression at the gap to Red Bull still being so big, Leclerc was clear that the positives win for now.
“On one side you always need to look at yourself and I think, since the second part of the season, since Zandvoort, we’ve learned a lot,” he said. “So, on that we are happy.
“Then, of course, we understand also 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 yeah, all in all, I think we are more happy with what we’ve learned than depressed with the distance to Red Bull.
“It’s because I think with what we learned, 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.”
Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, attending the FIA press conference
Photo by: Motorsport Images
The Japanese GP also marked an uptick in Leclerc’s personal performance, after weekends in Italy and Singapore where team-mate Carlos Sainz had edged him out.
Leclerc suggested recently that the swing in form towards Sainz had been down to the way that the Ferrari needs to be set-up for understeer – something he doesn’t especially like.
But while he was back on top of Sainz in Japan, he does not think it marked any significant step in terms of him getting on top of what is wrong with the SF-23.
“The issues of the car are still there,” he explained. “I think we need maybe a completely new car to get rid of it, and that is the target for next year.
“But with this year’s car, I’m working quite a bit on it because, at the moment, 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.
“I have tried 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.”