Charles Leclerc knew “in the first laps” in the SF-23 that “something didn’t add up” with the car, but it took a bit longer to realise performance was also lacking.
Ferrari made a song, but this year there was no dance, of the SF-23 which was unveiled in front of an audience of their Tifosi at the Fiorano circuit with Leclerc and Carlos Sainz conducting a brief shakedown of the car.
That was on February 14 with the car next in action on the 23rd when Ferrari joined their rivals for the only pre-season outing in Bahrain.
Charles Leclerc: We are very clear on how we need to improve
It was at this point that Leclerc realised all was not well.
“In the first laps of the tests there was a strange feeling, something didn’t add up in the balance,” he told Corriere dello Sport. “But only later did I discover that performance was also lacking.”
Ferrari didn’t have a poor pre-season as the team was second quickest, although some way off of Red Bull, but come Bahrain at the first race of the championship and it was evident their car was no match for the RB19.
While Leclerc retired with an engine issue that Sunday, Sainz brought his SF-23 home but some 48s down on race winner Max Verstappen.
Now 12 races into this season, Ferrari have yet to win a grand prix and have only three podiums to their tally leaving them fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.
“At the beginning of this season we had to almost reset our expectations because the car was not at the expected level,” said Leclerc. “But we are very clear on how we need to improve.”
But while Leclerc speaks of being very clear, that hasn’t always come across this season with the drivers often arguing with the pit wall and voicing their frustrations.
“If there is something wrong, we discuss it directly,” Leclerc said of his relationship with team boss Fred Vasseur. “Often what makes me angry makes him angry too.
“In some cases, I took it more than he thought to be fair. I tell him everything without filters and he does the same with me.
“It is important that this mentality is spread throughout the team, to be honest with ourselves. Acknowledge mistakes.”
Pressed as to whether Ferrari, who haven’t won a race in 13 months with their last victory being Leclerc’s P1 at the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix, have the ‘right’ people needed to get back to winning ways, he replied: “Yes.”
But, he added: “The plan calls for reinforcements, they will help us reach our goal.”
Ferrari have reportedly already signed Loic Serra from Mercedes with team boss Vasseur still hoping to persuade Pierre Waché to leave Red Bull in favour of Maranello.
Ferrari have scored 191 points this season leaving them P4 in the Constructors’ Championship where they trail Red Bull by 312 points.