Charles Leclerc says Ferrari is going in the “right direction” after the team recovered from a torrid Saturday to get both cars home inside the top five in Canada.
Having failed to reach Q3 in Spain last time out, Leclerc was again absent from the pole position shootout during a qualifying session at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve that featured changing conditions.
Meanwhile, team-mate Carlos Sainz, who had wound up eighth, received a three-place grid drop for impeding, meaning the two Ferrari cars lined up 10th and 11th.
However, both Leclerc and Sainz were able to complete one less stop compared to the cars around them to recover to fourth and fifth respectively by the chequered flag.
“We decided to stay on track during the first Safety Car, which I think was a good strategy,” he said.
“I think we did a great race management today, all in all, tyre management, strategy, the feeling with the car was also better than in the first part of the season, at least for me, so, it’s positive, but fourth is not where we want to be, we want to be fighting for first position again.
“Of course, starting tenth we made our life more difficult for today, but we’re still lacking a bit of pace.”
While Ferrari has typically been a force in qualifying this year it has been unable to translate that speed into race trim.
Constant battles with tyre degradation have been cited as a core weakness of its troubled 2023 car, but in Montreal, the SF-23 enabled its drivers to prolong the life of the Medium tyre at a competitive pace.
Asked whether the team had made a sudden breakthrough in regard to tyre management, Leclerc cautioned: “I would be careful saying that because I think tyre management wasn’t an issue for anyone today.
“It felt good but, again, this track is very particular, so I would wait until Austria before we confirm what we’ve seen this weekend.”
When George Russell’s crash brought out the Safety Car, Ferrari went against the grain by opting not to take advantage of gaining a ‘free’ pit stop as many of its competitors did.
However, it would prove to be an inspired call, prompting Leclerc to be pleased that the strategy team’s contribution to the result was one that was hugely evident.
“We had a very good strategy today, it’s cool to see it, because it’s true that even when we make the right calls that may be not too obvious, but today you could all see.
“It’s cool for the team everyone can see they did a top job today.”
Ahead of qualifying, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner had highlighted Ferrari as the reigning champion’s biggest threat.
Although the Italian outfit’s poor qualifying showing meant it was not a contender for the podium places, Ferrari had the pace to keep the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez at arm’s length throughout the afternoon.
Leclerc states that feat demonstrates the positive advances Ferrari made this weekend – but he has warned that the team must await the Austrian GP for confirmation of the potential strides it has made.
“We could resist [Perez] because today we were really fast, which is great,” he expressed.
“We’re progressing, we’re going in the right direction, but this track remains a very particular one, so let’s wait for Austria to confirm the progress.”