Charles Leclerc has praised Ferrari’s performance during Friday practice at Imola after the Italian squad displayed strong pace throughout the day.
Leclerc’s fastest lap time of FP2, which was deleted for a marginal track limit breach at Turn 9, was almost two-tenths faster than the session-topping time set by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.
Although Leclerc’s day ended in a collision with the barriers, the Monegasque driver affirmed Ferrari’s SF21 car “felt good” both in high and low-fuel runs.
“It’s not been an easy day on my side, but the performance has been great for me today,” Leclerc said, having classified fifth in the wake of his best lap being deleted.
“FP1, unfortunately we didn’t do the first part for a small problem. But then the car felt good, the feeling was good.
“Then FP2, we got our lap time deleted for very small margins in Turn 9. But yeah, most important [thing] is to not do the same thing in quali.
“But the performance was there too, also in the race pace, [it] was good. Then I did a mistake in the last corner and went into the wall, but better to do it now than in the race.”
Long-run data indicated that Leclerc was the third-fastest driver during FP2, out-pacing the Red Bull of Sergio Perez.
However, Leclerc doubts Ferrari is that close to Mercedes and Red Bull, believing a bigger gap will form throughout the remainder of the weekend.
“It feels better than last year [at Imola], we have to wait and see tomorrow when we are all pushing in qualifying, because for now it’s difficult to believe we are so close to the top teams,” Leclerc said.
“I’m pretty sure they have more to come tomorrow so let’s wait and see. It’s all track and temperature specific because we haven’t changed the car at all.
“The car feels a lot better in those conditions. Even if we compare [it] to last year, it felt much better this weekend. The grip is good, the balance is good, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”