Ferrari issue clear two-race target as Charles Leclerc presses reset button

Henry Valantine
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

Charles Leclerc rides the kerb in Mexico.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has declared securing second in the Constructors’ Championship his “only motivation” for the rest of the season.

The Scuderia trail Mercedes by 20 points for the unwanted but still important ‘best of the rest’ tag behind Red Bull heading into the final two races, with a huge amount of prize money separating each position in the table alongside professional pride.

Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur added his belief that the team have an “opportunity” to catch Mercedes too, after the Silver Arrows’ difficult showing in Brazil last time out.

Ferrari ‘frustrated’ by Charles Leclerc DNS but banking on Constructors’ battle

Leclerc spun into the barrier on the formation lap at Interlagos on Sunday after a hydraulic problem, the Monégasque driver bemoaning his continued bad luck after securing a front-row start on the grid.

He explained that he has “finally” gained the confidence he desires behind the wheel of the SF-23, but despite losing out on multiple occasions throughout the year, he is placing all of his efforts into beating Mercedes for the remainder of 2023.

“I’m annoyed because obviously, especially in the second half of the year, I finally find the confidence with the car and then start second,” Leclerc said after his DNS on Sunday.

“We sacrificed the whole weekend for Sunday’s race, you do six corners and that’s it. Very frustrated for now, but now I need to move on and obviously focus on the last few races.

“It’s the best thing I can do as a driver but it’s of course frustrating to lose so many opportunities throughout the season.

“I just hope that after this race we can anyway be still in the fight for the second in the Constructors’, that is my only motivation for the rest of the year because then whatever is left is not something that is super exciting.”

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As for team boss Vasseur, he backed up his driver in explaining that the Scuderia had set his weekend up around providing him with the best car possible in race trim, only for that to be scuppered before the race got underway.

But despite those issues, he called for “calm” within the team to regroup for the final two races, with the possibility still there of leapfrogging Mercedes with two strong team performances in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi.

“It’s very frustrating for Charles and for the team, but the issue is that also strategically over the weekend we put all our effort on the long run to save tyres,” Vasseur explained after the race on Sunday.

“We put everything on the long run, and we didn’t take the start. For sure it’s frustrating, it was more than disappointing, but I’m sure that tonight he will be back and we’ll be focused on Vegas.

“Now we have to stay calm to understand what’s happened to avoid any issue in the future, and I think our pace over the weekend was not that bad.

“We are in a good position today and it’s a missed opportunity because we are catching up Mercedes a little bit over the weekend, but with Charles on the first row with three sets of new tyres, it could have been much better.

“We have still two attempts at Vegas and Abu Dhabi. Vegas could be a chaotic one and if we have the same pace as this weekend and Mercedes the same pace as this weekend, we have an opportunity.”

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