Charles Leclerc reveals Ferrari damage extent as major Red Bull prediction made

Jamie Woodhouse
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc looks down in the F1 paddock during Bahrain testing.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc looks down.

Charles Leclerc confirmed that a loose drain cover left a hole in his Ferrari floor in Bahrain, while he feels the RB20 is the car to beat, believing that “Red Bull remains quite a bit ahead”.

Leclerc was at the wheel of the SF-24 on the morning of day two of Bahrain pre-season testing, but his, and the session in general, came to an early end after a fresh Ferrari encounter with a misbehaving drain cover.

The piece of metal was dislodged after Leclerc ran wide over the kerbs at Turn 11, with Ferrari informing that Leclerc’s car needed to be fitted with a new floor.

Drain cover left ‘hole in the floor’ on Ferrari SF-24

This is of course not the first time Ferrari has come unstuck thanks to a loose drain cover, as Carlos Sainz knows all too well thanks to his experience at the first Las Vegas Grand Prix.

And as was the case then, this triggered a mass inspection of the drain covers around the track, meaning the morning testing session on day two in Bahrain was finished with just over an hour left on the clock.

Leclerc confirmed to F1TV that he had “no warning” of the hazard, which he said had left a “hole in the floor”, but thankfully not a huge one after he comfortably topped the morning timesheet.

“It wasn’t huge. There was a bit of a hole in the floor, which we had to change,” he said.

“I had no warning. I saw something, but honestly it was so thin that I thought it was a plastic thing. We see sometimes some of them around the track and we just go on them and nothing is happening, but this time obviously it was metal, so it hurt the car a little bit more.” recommends

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Charles Leclerc sees Red Bull as clear leader

After a brief appearance at the start of the afternoon session, Leclerc handed the SF-24 over to Sainz who also put it to full use, clocking a new benchmark of Bahrain testing so far, a 1:29.921. Albeit on the one grade softer C4 tyres, it trumped Max Verstappen’s previous fastest time by a second-and-a-half.

Positive signs then for Ferrari, Leclerc adding to that by confirming that the SF-24 is feeling more compliant and should be better at managing its tyres than its predecessor, a weakness which hamstrung them against Red Bull on race days in 2023.

However, despite such major positives, Leclerc fears Red Bull are ultimately still comfortably out in front.

“It feels like every winter test, which means that we don’t understand a thing because for now it’s too early to say,” Leclerc stated. “We have no idea what are the fuel levels of everybody else.

“In terms of drivability, the car is a lot better compared to last year. Last year after the test, it was very very difficult to push into a direction because we just didn’t know what the car was doing. We will get into a corner and we didn’t know whether we will have extreme oversteer or extreme understeer, which was a big problem.

“This year, the car is not like that, which is a better starting point. However, my initial feeling is that Red Bull unfortunately remains quite a bit ahead and yesterday they’ve done very impressive lap times.

“But this is only my own feeling, not looking at data because again, data doesn’t mean much for now.

“I think the drivability is going to help us on the long runs. So I think that for tyre degradation, for race runs overall, I think we should be in a better place.”

Leclerc goes into the F1 2024 campaign with a fresh Ferrari deal secured, while Sainz is looking for a new home on the grid beyond this year, as Lewis Hamilton prepares to join the team in 2025.

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