Charles Leclerc ‘paid the price’ in 2023

Charles Leclerc claimed two victories from the opening three rounds last season, before errors allowed Max Verstappen to cruise to the title.

Ex-Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa expects Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz to both be “title contenders” in the forthcoming season, with the Brazilian not expecting it to be a straight duel between rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari are a side who have been somewhat overlooked in regard to title favourites, with the majority of the focus having been on whether Red Bull can defend their Constructors’ Championship despite their budget cap penalty, and if Mercedes will return from their 2022 embarrassment.

Apart from the leadership change at Maranello, Ferrari haven’t been spoken about too often, despite having reportedly designed an incredible 2023 car.

Ferrari’s 2023 car isn’t set to suffer from the engine-based reliability issues that affected the team last season, with the Italians having solved and fixed their power unit issues.

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With Ferrari’s reliability issues now in the past, Massa sees both Leclerc and Sainz as potential world champions, with the team’s “problem” not having been the duo.

“I really like them,” Massa told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Leclerc and Sainz are title contenders. Ferrari’s problem is certainly not the drivers. Charles has shown that he knows how to win with the car up to the mark.

“Last year he paid the price, as did the whole team, after a start in the championship that had him leading the standings and then they lost all the advantage in a few races.”

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Interestingly, new team principal Frederic Vasseur has revealed that at the start of the new season, Leclerc and Sainz will be treated as equals.

However, should one dominate over the other and remain in title contention, then Vasseur has admitted that he will “take action” to ensure that Ferrati meet their “target”.

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“We have two very good drivers who are both able to do the job,” Vasseur told reporters.

“We will have the capacity to provide them exactly the same car and structure and support.

“The target is to win for Ferrari. There will be no number one or two. But if at one stage I have to take action, I will take action. It doesn’t matter if it is one or the other, if at one stage of the season, I have to do something, I will do it.”