Charles Leclerc has singled out the area in which Ferrari are struggling the most relative to Red Bull after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Leclerc has said he doesn’t expect “any miracles” for Sunday’s race in Miami, but is aiming to disrupt the pace of the Red Bulls by doing “something special” on Saturday.
The Ferrari driver took pole position for both the Sprint race and the Grand Prix in Azerbaijan, but was powerless to hold back Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in the Grand Prix – although managed to finish second in the Sprint due to Verstappen’s car being compromised by sidepod damage.
With updates trickling through to the SF-23, Leclerc believes the gap to Red Bull has shrunk, but says the deficit in terms of race pace is still too great to think about victories just yet.
“We need to wait and see tomorrow where we are relative to the others,” he told Sky F1 on Thursday in Miami.
“We have a few new things on the car which, hopefully, will help us do a step in the right direction. But it’s not a secret that we are quite a lot behind in terms of race pace compared to Red Bull.
“I think, for Sunday, we cannot expect any miracles, but I’ll do my best to do something special on Saturday and then take the maximum points on Sunday but, again, as I said, I think Red Bull will still be in front.”
Charles Leclerc reveals Ferrari’s biggest problem
While Baku suggested Ferrari have started to unlock the single lap pace inherent on the SF-23, race pace is still their biggest weakness – mainly due to how the car is using its tyres.
Leclerc was able to match the pace of Sergio Perez during the first half of the Sprint race, but lost out badly as the rest of the race unfolded, exactly as the tyres faded away from under him. It was a similar story on Sunday, with Leclerc even falling into the clutches of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso by the chequered flag.
Asked about whether it’s possible for Ferrari to figure out what Red Bull are doing, he said: “It’s difficult to say for us because we don’t know exactly what’s underneath the covers of this Red Bull.
“But one thing is for sure is that they are doing something right for the race. They can push on those tyres without ever degrading them or overheating them which, for us, is a big problem. Whenever we do two or three good laps, then we struggle a lot. Or if I manage the tyres well like I did in Baku, yes, towards the end of the run we were quite OK but, at the beginning, we are losing so much to try and avoid overheating those tyres. So we need to find something.”
Charles Leclerc: Updates have been a small step forward
Having brought their first updates to the SF-23 at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Leclerc said the car isn’t yet on the level of Red Bull’s RB19, but believes the team can haul themselves back into contention against the reigning World Champions.
“It was a little bit of a step forward,” he said.
“I think and hope we can keep that momentum coming here.
“We know that we are not at the level of Red Bull but we know what are the areas that we need to improve and we are doing absolutely everything to improve as quickly as possible because the championship is long.
“We need to find some pace and we know that it needs to be as soon as possible but we have a few new things on the car for here. I don’t think it’s going to be a game-changer to fight for the wins with Red Bull but it should bring us closer.”