Charles Leclerc left to rue Ferrari’s ‘impossible’ race pace task

Michelle Foster
Fred Vasseur congratulates Charles Leclerc. Azerbaijan April 2023

Fred Vasseur congratulates Charles Leclerc after his podium finish. Azerbaijan April 2023

Charles Leclerc concedes it is “impossible” for Ferrari to fight Red Bull over a race distance as his SF-23 is lacking in race pace.

Leclerc grabbed two pole positions at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the Monégasque driver fastest of all in Friday evening’s qualifying and following that up with another P1 in Saturday’s sprint shootout.

That, though, is where the P1s ended for the driver.

Leclerc was beaten by Sergio Perez in Saturday’s sprint, the Mexican driver breezing past with DRS, but he still managed to keep Max Verstappen at bay although that perhaps had more to do with the Dutchman’s damaged RB19 than Leclerc’s own pace.

In Sunday’s race the Ferrari driver lost out to both Red Bulls and crossed the line 21 seconds down on race winner Perez.

But while the race marked Leclerc’s first grand prix podium of the season, there weren’t a lot to celebrate. recommends

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“I’m here to win and obviously second or third is not what I want,” he said as per the official F1 website, “but considering the first three races that we had, scoring six points in three races, this weekend is better.

“We didn’t have any problems, it was a trouble-free weekend.

“When I look back at the weekend, I look at every session and I think we absolutely maximised everything in every single session.

“On that,” he continued, ” we should be happy but there is still so much work to do.”

Alas his Ferrari just did not have the race pace to keep the Red Bulls behind him, Leclerc saying even the Aston Martin is better in race trim.

“I think Aston Martin is quicker than us and has a better car than us in race pace,” he conceded. “Red Bull has a much better car than us in terms of race pace and that’s where we need to do the biggest step forward.

“In qualifying over one lap with the juice of the tyres, and taking a bit more risk, we managed to do two poles but then over 51 laps, race distance, it’s impossible.”

So impossible that Leclerc revealed he didn’t even fight the Red Bull drivers as they swept past him.

“I didn’t fight too much,” he said, “there wasn’t anything to gain from it apart from killing my tyres and then I’d be even more in trouble.

“So that was exactly the right choice because looking at how close Fernando was at the end of the race I did well looking after my own race.”

Walking away from the Baku weekend having scored 22 points in total, Leclerc is up to P6 in the Drivers’ Championship with 28 points. That, however, is 65 behind championship leader Verstappen.