This early-season April break could well prove to be very handy for Ferrari says Charles Leclerc, who is not writing this season off despite a very rough start.
Leclerc went into F1 2023 hoping to use the disappointment of last season to prove that it was nothing more than a false start to Ferrari’s return to the F1 summit.
Leclerc began that campaign with two victories in the opening three rounds, though Red Bull would assume firm control of proceedings as the season went on, ultimately claiming the Constructors’ title and the Drivers’ crown via Max Verstappen in comfortable fashion.
And with the same number of races now in the books for F1 2023, it is certainly far less promising for both Leclerc and Ferrari this time around.
Reliability continues to be a thorn in the side for the Scuderia, while the Saudi Arabian GP is the only race which Leclerc has finished this season, having been spun out on the opening lap in Australia after contact with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.
The situation is then that Leclerc finds himself down in P10 in the early Drivers’ standings with only six points on the board.
But, with a break of almost a month between Australia and the next round in Azerbaijan, Leclerc is thankful for this opportunity for he and Ferrari to hit the reset button.
“I think in the situation we are in as a team, we take this as an opportunity to work as much as possible during this break, in order to get upgrades as quickly as possible and be as competitive as we want sooner in this season,” said Leclerc as per the Formula 1 website.
To that point, Leclerc is not about to claim that all hope is now lost for Ferrari, instead, with 20 rounds of the campaign still to go, he and Ferrari are “fully motivated” to get back to the top of the pile in F1.
“It’s still a very, very long season,” Leclerc declared. “We are fully motivated to get back on top and we’ll try to use these weeks [before Azerbaijan] in the best way possible.”
The issue for Ferrari though is that even if they conquer the challenge of catching Aston Martin and Mercedes, who seem to have an advantage in race trim, then there is a substantial gap to bridge to Red Bull.
But, with Leclerc saying that Ferrari need “a more solid car in all the conditions”, it is encouraging that the Monegasque driver says his team knows the areas which they must address to achieve that.
“We know the story about last year, and now it’s all about focusing on what we can do better to improve and to come back to their [Red Bull’s] level,” Leclerc stated. “We know where we need to work on and now we just need to make it happen.
“We seem to be quite good in terms of qualifying whenever the peak grip is there, but then whenever we lose a little bit of grip in the race, it starts to be very, very difficult, and we seem to lose quite a lot of performance, so on that we need to work.”
Ferrari need 2022 repeat but in reverse order
The 2022 and F1 2023 campaigns share in common that Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Australia were the opening three rounds, and it was this time last year that Max Verstappen found himself in a very frustrating situation.
The Red Bull driver had been forced to retire from the Bahrain and Australian GPs, leaving him P6 in the standings after that same period of races, yet he went on to win a record 15 grands prix out of 22 to clinch successive World title crowns.
Of course, Red Bull were looking far stronger in those opening races when the RB18 was working compared to Ferrari in F1 2023, but it does serve as proof of Leclerc’s point that the season is not over after just three rounds.
Red Bull are of course facing a disadvantage in the fact that they have less time in the wind tunnel than Ferrari, by virtue of winning the 2022 Constructors’ title and their 10 percent time penalty for a minor 2021 cost cap breach, so the odds of a fightback are in Ferrari’s favour.
And considering that the iconic team has not tasted title glory since 2008, it is a resurgence that the Tifosi are certainly longing to see.