Charles Leclerc: Ferrari’s ‘last bit’ of improvement as hard as road to this point

Thomas Maher
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, on track. Mexico, October 2022.

Charles Leclerc on track in the Ferrari. Mexico, October 2022.

Charles Leclerc believes the last few steps Ferrari need to take will be as difficult as the steps forward already taken in recent seasons.

Ferrari took a significant step forward for the start of the 2022 ruleset, having spent 2020 and ’21 making the necessary changes behind the scenes to become a threat for the World Championship.

Led by Mattia Binotto, Ferrari’s F1-75 was arguably the quickest car to kick off the 2022 season, but a mixture of reliability problems, strategy mistakes and driver errors, resulted in Leclerc’s title bid crumbling away as the season progressed.

That crumbling has resulted in Binotto handing in his resignation from his post as team boss, with Alfa Romeo boss Frederic Vasseur assuming the mantle ahead of the 2023 campaign.

While a casual observance might suggest Ferrari simply need to rectify mistakes rather than find a big performance jump for next season, Leclerc reckons the step up needed will be just as big as the steps already taken in the past two seasons.

“The team has done an incredible job of doing such a step forward in terms of performance from last year to this year,” Leclerc told The Race.

“But I believe that the last bit is as hard as the bit we’ve done now.

“To go and find the last details, to actually be a strong team coming on Sunday and making the right calls, the right decisions at the right time, in different conditions, is something super important.

“We’ve been working on it a lot in the last three races [in 2022]. And I think we’ve made some steps forward already.

“But we need to keep working because as we saw in Suzuka, we’ve been struggling with tyre degradation.

“We’ve seen that we’ve definitely made a step forward on Sunday since the last few races but it’s not yet consistent. And we still need to work on that.”

Ferrari’s upgrade decisions ‘part of the challenge’

With Ferrari’s upgrades not yielding the same results as Red Bull’s throughout the development cycle, as well as Mercedes closing up the gap quickly to become a genuine threat for second place in the Constructors’ Championship by year end, Leclerc explained it can be a delicate balancing act to introduce upgrades due to the strictness of the budget cap.

“It’s not always nice, because whenever you want something in the car, sometimes the guys say no,” he said.

“And that’s not the best to hear. But, in the end, it is part of the challenge. I like it. And I think it’s great the way we have been working, especially technically, in the past two years.

“It’s been two very difficult years for the team. But on the other hand, inside the team, it was always very clear where our weak points were on the car for the performance. And we’ve been working on them for this year’s car.

“It’s amazing to see the steps forward.”

Charles Leclerc moving on from French GP mistake

One of the most cataclysmic moments of the 2022 season was in France, when Leclerc crashed out of the lead just as it looked as though he had the pace to cover off Max Verstappen’s lower downforce setup choice.

The Monegasque said that was an obvious lowlight of 2022, but revealed he was able to compartmentalise and rationalise the mistake rather than dwell on it into the new year.

“The toughest moments for me are always my own mistakes because I’m always very harsh with myself and whenever I make a mistake, I always take it in a worse way compared to when it’s somebody else’s,” he explained.

“Speaking about my mistakes, yes, I made a mistake in France. But speaking about the season like I’ve done this year… honestly, you’re always going to make a mistake in a season.

“This one was a costly one because I was obviously in the lead but it happens.”

Read More: Charles Leclerc feels a ‘much more complete’ driver for 2022 experiences