Charles Leclerc drops big Ferrari claim ahead of 2023 Australian GP

Charles Leclerc is quietly confident that Ferrari can find improved race performance after a positive Friday in Australia.

A disappointing end to the 2022 season that saw his World Drivers’ Championship pursuit fall apart has carried over into an underwhelming start to 2023 for Ferrari, but Charles Leclerc believes the team put together their best Friday session yet ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

After appearing to be neck and neck with Red Bull for at least the first half of last season, 2023 has been dominated by the Milton Keynes-based team so far with Ferrari struggling to find any true race pace, while also not getting the most out of their sessions earlier on in the weekend.

Their struggles have allowed Red Bull to dominate early on, despite flashes of brilliance from Aston Martin who have seemingly jumped ahead of the Prancing Horse for the time being.

Leclerc has complained about the issue on previous occasions, but was positive off the back of a chaotic FP1 at Albert Park and believes Ferrari are well equipped for the rest of the weekend, having managed to finish second-fastest in FP2.

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Speaking to after the first two sessions, he explained: “I feel like the feeling is a bit better than the other races, so that is positive. It is probably our most positive FP2 of the season, which doesn’t mean much, but at least it is a Friday that finishes on a positive note.

“Now we need to work, do another step in the right direction tomorrow and hopefully we will be a bit closer to the Red Bulls tomorrow [in qualifying], and especially [during the race].”

Leclerc did not finish the season opener at Bahrain before finishing P7 in a disappointing weekend in Jeddah at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with both Ferrari drivers still trying to find their feet with the SF-23, under the leadership of new team principal Frederic Vasseur.

Carlos Sainz has similarly struggled like his Monegasque teammate, but was also cautiously optimistic off the back of his first two sessions in Australia.

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“Obviously practice is practice, but we did use that FP1 to try some very different things on the car to see if we can find a bit of performance for the package that we have now.”

The Spaniard continued, claiming that the team better understood what they were working with as well as unearthing things that could be beneficial in the future.

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After putting in a terrific lap in Jeddah that was just two-tenths off Sergio Perez’s effort, Leclerc was mindful that Ferrari still have plenty of room to improve in the race, but again remained quietly confident: “I think that with the different changes we’ve done today, maybe we [will] find a little bit of performance.

“We must not forget that last race, we were really, really struggling in the race and we won’t be finding this kind of lap time in the race, but this should be a step in the right direction.”

On Formula 1’s return to Australia in 2022, Leclerc put together a spectacular weekend to win the race with ease.