Charles Leclerc encouraged by ‘healthier’ SF-24 after first shakedown run

Henry Valantine
Charles Leclerc drives the Ferrari SF-24.

Charles Leclerc took the Ferrari SF-24 around Fiorano for the first time shortly after its launch.

While too early to tell if it’s competitive, Charles Leclerc said the Ferrari SF-24 felt “healthier” on its opening shakedown laps compared to last year’s challenger, which was “very difficult to drive” early on.

Ferrari launched their 2024 car at Maranello on Tuesday, with Leclerc and team-mate Carlos Sainz each given three laps of Fiorano to get to grips with their new machinery before a full filming day on Wednesday of up to 200 kilometres.

Team boss Fred Vasseur confirmed that around 95% of the car had changed its components compared to last year’s SF-23, which was the only car to beat Red Bull to a Grand Prix victory through Sainz in Singapore.

Charles Leclerc: New Ferrari ‘feels healthier and in a better place’ on first impression

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper

Just one victory over the course of a season is rarely enough to satisfy a team of Ferrari’s stature however, with the Scuderia having been hard at work over the winter to produce a car capable of challenging for race victories on a regular basis.

Leclerc took five pole positions last season but was unable to convert any into victories, with the SF-23 proving unpredictable to drive and Red Bull the dominant force in race trim.

While he wanted to stress that having a car that felt better to drive is no guarantee of outright pace, he said he felt better behind the wheel early on than he did this time last season.

“I remember that after the first lap last year, or it was the first three [or] four laps, I wasn’t really happy with the behaviour of the car,” Leclerc told media including after his shakedown run at Fiorano.

“The car was very, very difficult to drive. This year, the car feels healthier and in a better place.

“On the other hand, and I want to push on the point, that doesn’t mean anything on the competitiveness of the car because if other teams have done bigger steps forward in terms of lap time gains, then it can be an easier car to drive, but if it’s not fast enough, it won’t be fast enough on track.

“So in terms of competitiveness, it’s very difficult [to say]. In terms of actual feeling of the very first laps, I will say I’ve had a better feeling this year than I did last year.” recommends

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Leclerc was asked about what has changed from last year’s car to this one, and while he said engineers have been working “day and night” to add downforce to the car, a big part of the Ferrari driver’s input was trying to make this year’s car more adaptable to changes in conditions.

“There was obviously a clear input from us drivers, which was the drivability of the 2023 car, which was extremely sensitive to wind direction changes, to outside conditions changing and that was making it very, very difficult for us to extract the maximum out of the car,” Leclerc explained.

“Because as soon as one of these elements would change slightly, the behaviour of the car was completely different.

“There’s been a lot of work and, based on the simulator, we’ve done a significant step forward on that.

“Based on the reality, it’s still very early days to tell. I’ve done three laps this morning, but three laps with cameras stuck all around the car and not really pushing to the limit, so too early to say.”

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