Charles Leclerc makes Carlos Sainz admission as Ferrari attack Red Bull with ‘genuine pace’

Thomas Maher
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc celebrate on the podium at the 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc has admitted he simply didn’t do as good a job as Carlos Sainz over the course of the Australian Grand Prix weekend.

Ferrari claimed a 1-2 finish at Albert Park in Melbourne on Sunday, with Carlos Sainz taking the win ahead of Charles Leclerc after starting on the front row and overtaking Max Verstappen just before the Red Bull driver retired from the race.

Charles Leclerc: Carlos Sainz has been better this weekend

Leclerc had only managed fifth in qualifying as he admitted he hadn’t driven as well as he had in practice, but the Monegasque wasn’t able to get on terms with Sainz during the Grand Prix either.

The Spaniard sat out the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as he required surgery to remove his appendix, but had recovered enough to return to the cockpit in Australia.

While not feeling he was at 100 percent, Sainz proved the stronger of the Ferrari pairing during the entire weekend and claimed the win to become the first non-Red Bull race winner in 2024.

Resigned to second place, with no team orders to put him in front of Sainz at this early stage of the championship, Leclerc said there was little he could have done to prevent his teammate from winning the race.

“Just being better,” he told media, when asked what he could have done to beat Sainz.

“I think in qualifying yesterday, I haven’t been good enough.

“In the second stint today, on the first hard stint, I had quite a bit of graining on the front left after the [Virtual] Safety Car. The last stint was really good, but it wasn’t enough.

“So Carlos has just been better this weekend. But it’s been that in the last three years, where we basically will arrive at one race and Carlos will be better and then I’ll push and then I’ll be better at the next race and then we’ll improve like that.

“And that’s very exciting as a driver to have such a fast team-mate. And he’s really been on it since the beginning of the weekend. So congratulations to Carlos.” recommends

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Charles Leclerc: We knew we could compete with Red Bull

Australia marked the first weekend in some time where Red Bull genuinely looked to be digging deep to stay ahead of the pack.

Max Verstappen found pole position pace right at the end of qualifying, with Sainz unable to find the same pace as he admitted to discomfort from his appendix that was preventing him from being in tip-top shape.

But, with Verstappen retiring on Lap 3 with his rear brake issue, Sergio Perez couldn’t get involved in the front battle after starting from sixth on the grid due to a grid penalty.

This left Ferrari free to take the 1-2, with their closest competition coming from the McLaren duo, and Leclerc said he and the Scuderia will take great encouragement from seeing how fast they were in Melbourne.

“Oh, it’s extremely important,” he said, when asked about the result’s impact on team morale so early in the championship.

“Because it’s been a long time since we have had the genuine pace to have Red Bull… I wouldn’t say under control, because we don’t know what was the real pace of Max today, but I will say that from FP1, we knew that pole position and the race win was possible because we had very good tyre degradation, very good pace, and that is a very encouraging sign.

“However, if you look at the first three races, two out of the first three races they had the upper hand in the race. So we still have a lot of work to do. But that’s exactly what we need to do as a team.

“Whenever we have the opportunity to actually win a race we need to take it and this weekend we did it, Carlos did it today.

“On my side, second with the fastest lap, so there are not any more points that we have got. And looking back at the first three races, there is not one race where we didn’t maximise the result. So we need to do that until we get the car that is consistently better than the Red Bull, especially in the race.”

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