Charles Leclerc suspects Red Bull are ‘sandbagging’ as Ferrari go quickest

Sam Cooper
Charles Leclerc looks to his side. Monza, September 2022.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc looks to his side whilst being interviewed. Monza, September 2022.

Charles Leclerc suspects there is more to come from Red Bull despite a Ferrari driver topping both FP1 and FP2 at the Italian Grand Prix.

The Tifosi were finally given something to cheer as Leclerc registered the quickest time in the first practice session at Monza before his team-mate Carlos Sainz did the same in FP2.

Leclerc finished 0.430 seconds ahead of Championship leader Max Verstappen after the Red Bull driver got caught behind Lando Norris during his quick run.

This comes after Red Bull had been suspected to do well given the similar characteristics of the Monza track compared to Spa, while the reverse was said to be true of Ferrari who struggled in Belgium.

Leclerc admitted that the team had expected a tougher day than what they actually received.

“[I am] quite happy with the first feelings we got on this track after what happened in Spa,” he told F1.com. “The car is in a similar place, a bit more extreme here, but similar place to Spa so we expected a bit of a tougher day but it’s a good first day. Now we need to do a step forward for tomorrow but honestly, the feeling is is good.”

The 24-year-old showed restraint in his celebration though as he suspected Red Bull may not have been running their car at their full potential.

“I don’t know how much Red Bull was sandbagging. So let’s wait and see tomorrow when they put everything together but today the feeling was really good. So I hope we can keep that feeling.”

He was also quizzed on whether he felt he could take pole, having not done so since the French Grand Prix, and was confident he could.

“If we put everything together, I think there’s quite a bit of potential even after today. So I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Leclerc’s team-mate Sainz was also upbeat after the day’s driving and said it was a “pleasant surprise” given what he and the team had been expecting.

“It’s been a positive day because obviously after coming from Spa, the less downforce track where we struggled a lot, we expected to not be very competitive here,” he said.

“But I must say that since FP1 the car has felt in a much better window, in a much better position than where it was in Spa. Lap times were coming easy, the stopwatch doesn’t lie, and we were more and more on the pace.

“So it’s been a pleasant surprise, doesn’t mean we are the fastest, I don’t think we are the fastest out there by any means, especially in the long runs, but at least we are closer than what we thought.”