Charles Leclerc provides ‘worrying’ update on Ferrari’s Barcelona disaster

Oliver Harden
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, looks sad. Bahrain, March 2023.

Charles Leclerc looking rather sad in the Ferrari garage. Bahrain, March 2023.

Charles Leclerc has admitted he is concerned after Ferrari did not find an issue with his car following his Spanish Grand Prix struggles.

After a challenging couple of races in Miami and Monaco, Leclerc’s 2023 campaign arguably hit a new low in Barcelona where he qualified 19th out of 20 cars and suffered his first Q1 elimination in four years.

While team-mate Carlos Sainz thrived in the cool conditions to qualify on the front row for his home race, Leclerc started from the pit lane after Ferrari elected to change his entire rear end in a desperate bid to solve his problems with the car’s handling.

However, Leclerc could only recover to 11th on race day as Sainz faded to a distant fifth – crossing the line 45 seconds adrift of dominant race winner Max Verstappen.

Asked in the FIA drivers’ press conference ahead of this weekend’s Canadian GP if Ferrari had identified a problem with his SF23, Leclerc simply replied: “No, no. We didn’t.”

Having made a fine start to F1’s ground-effect era in early 2022, Ferrari have only one podium finish – Leclerc’s third place in Azerbaijan – from the first seven rounds of this season and next month’s Austrian GP will make a full year since the team’s last win.

Leclerc has acknowledged that the team’s start to 2023 hasn’t been good enough and is alarmed by their struggles to find answers from Barcelona.

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He explained: “Overall, I think all the team is not satisfied with the performance we are showing at the moment on track and it’s very far off our expectations at the beginning of the season. We are very clear with ourselves and it’s very clear for us.

“Qualifying in Barcelona was a very particular one. I think I wasn’t the only one to struggle.

“We need to understand these things and, for now, we don’t have the reason so this is a little bit more worrying and that’s where we need to push and try to understand the reason [behind] it because obviously the feeling was really, really bad.

“And looking ahead, we just need to keep pushing, try and bring upgrades as quickly as possible and regularly, which is our aim now to try and close the gap with the guys in front and and also close the gap especially in terms of race space because even though I struggled a lot in qualifying on the Saturday, the Sunday wasn’t great either.

“And if we look, Carlos had a great Saturday but then on Sunday we struggled again with the race pace, so that’s where we are trying to push at the moment.

“What gives me confidence, though, is that there’s a clear direction in where we want to work and improve and this is what makes me believe in the project.”

Having persevered with an unusual sidepod concept since the beginning of last season, Ferrari adopted a more conventional design in Barcelona as they welcomed the arrival of a major upgrade package.

With no new parts due in Canada, Leclerc is keeping expectations firmly in check for this weekend.

“It was a very difficult weekend for me especially [in Barcelona].

“On this track we don’t have anything new so I don’t think we’ll have any miracles, but we need to just try and maximise our package, understand more this package, the way [to] set up the car in order to maximise it.

“In Spain, we were quite easily off the window and then we’re losing quite a lot of performance.

“So we’ve learned a lot and I’m pretty sure we’ll be in a better place for this weekend, but I don’t think it will be a huge step forward.”