Charles Leclerc has admitted his driving style isn’t suiting the Ferrari SF-23, unlike Carlos Sainz, but says it’s up to himself to correct that.
Leclerc had to watch on as Sainz claimed a stellar victory at last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, with the Spaniard claiming the first win for the Scuderia in 2023, and the first for the team since last year’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Leclerc has had a tough run since the summer break – his race at Zandvoort was ruined early on after picking up floor damage, he was beaten to third place by Sainz at Monza, before finishing a distance fourth in Singapore while Sainz took the win.
Charles Leclerc: I’m not as at ease with this car as last year
The Monegasque driver has previously spoken about not enjoying the understeery nature of the SF-23, a fact he re-iterated as he spoke to media ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.
Leclerc explained that the steps taken to improve the overall competitiveness of the car have resulted in the characteristics he dislikes coming to the fore – a situation that has allowed Sainz to capitalise on, as evidenced by his recent form.
“Well, overall, I think the whole season has been a bit less positive for me compared to last season,” Leclerc told TV crews in Japan.
“I’m just less at ease with the car compared to last year’s car, which was very easy to manage the oversteer.
“This year, we have some issues on that – we know it, we are working actively on it, but it takes time.
“For now, I have to set up the car on the understeery side, which is not something I enjoy. So yeah, in the meantime, I need to obviously try and work on my driving style in order to improve.
“But it’s as simple as that. Carlos always likes to be a bit more on the understeer [side], and I prefer to be a bit more on the oversteer. But for now, it’s not possible for me.”
Heading into the Suzuka weekend, Leclerc said he’s excited to get stuck into the driving as the Japanese circuit is one of his favourites of the year.
“I’m really excited for this weekend,” he said.
“It’s one of my favorite tracks of the season, especially of the non-city tracks, like Silverstone and here are standing out. It’s such a special track, so I’m looking forward to driving.”
But as for how competitive Ferrari might be, Leclerc couldn’t guess.
“I don’t know. Monza, we kind of expected to be fast,” he said.
“In Singapore, we did not expect to be fast so I hope it can be a good surprise here too and be as competitive as we were in Singapore.
“But I’m not sure – it’s very difficult to understand this year. If you look at Red Bull also, which has been extremely consistent the whole year, in Singapore, they struggled a lot.
“Then all of the other teams are quite inconsistent throughout the year, so difficult to know exactly what will happen here.”
Charles Leclerc: It’s up to me to catch up on Carlos Sainz
Sainz’s win in Singapore has opened up a 19-point gap in his favour in the Drivers’ Championship over Leclerc, with the momentum now firmly on the Spaniard’s side as the season enters its closing stages.
With Sainz’s form putting him ahead of Leclerc for the first time since 2021, the Monegasque driver said that he welcomes Sainz’s pace as it serves as extra motivation for himself to dig deeper.
“Carlos in Monza and here has been completely on it, he’s been very strong,” Leclerc said.
“It’s great to have him on such form because it pushes me to understand a bit more my driving style and try to fit my driving style to this car.
“I’m not completely comfortable with the car at the moment. There’s a bit too much understeer for my liking, I struggle to drive around it.
“Because of the unpredictability of the car, I cannot have the oversteer that I want.
“So there’s a bit of work to do but it’s first of all great to see that the competitiveness seems to be up there, that Carlos feels at ease.
“Now it’s up to me to try and catch up.”