Charles Leclerc is optimistic that Ferrari can contend for the world championship this year if their impressive form continues, but maintains that it is still too early to get carried away.
Leclerc produced a fine display to claim the fourth victory of his Formula 1 career at the Australian Grand Prix, leading home Red Bull’s Sergio Perez by 20 seconds.
The Scuderia had the edge over Red Bull all weekend, and Leclerc enjoyed a race win that he did not have to excessively sweat for.
“In Formula 1 it’s the first [win] where we controlled a little bit the gap and honestly what a car today, I mean yeah of course I did a good job all weekend but it was not possible without the car,” he said before he went to the podium.
“This weekend especially in the race pace we were extremely strong. The tyres felt great from the first lap to the last lap, we were managing the tyres extremely well and I’m just so happy.”
The Monegasque had to deal with two Safety Car restarts after both his team-mate Carlos Sainz and Aston Martin’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel crashed, but the side-by-side action with Max Verstappen on the latter of the two was the only time that his leadership of the race was out under serious pressure.
“It was very difficult, especially the Safety Car restart,” he recalls.
“I had a huge understeer into the final corner and I was like ‘phwoah,’ it is going to be difficult to keep that first position, but yeah then we managed to do so and after the first two or three corners I managed to regain the grip.
“Then the pace was back so yeah, [it’s] incredible to win here.”
Verstappen would suffer his second reliability failure of the season, forcing him to retire late on, giving Ferrari a 49-point advantage over Red Bull.
Leclerc, however, does not want to hype up his team’s title chances just yet after only three rounds of 23 this year.
“Obviously we are only at the third race so it’s difficult to think about the championship,” he maintained.
“But to be honest we’ve got a very strong car, a very reliable car too and for now we’ve always been there so I hope it continues like this.
“If it does then we probably have chances for the championship which obviously makes me smile after the last two years that have been difficult for the team and then obviously for myself so it’s great to be back in this position.”
Leclerc’s lead in the Drivers’ Standings has now increased to 34 points, with George Russell sitting P2 in the standings.