Charles Leclerc has hailed the “incredible” reaction shown by Ferrari this season to rebound from the early setback of not being in a position to battle for this year’s Formula 1 World Championship.
After returning to winning ways and ending up second in the standings last year, the Italian outfit was aiming to go one better and deliver title success back to Maranello for the first time in 15 years in 2023.
However, Ferrari is yet to win a race this year – scooping only three podiums in 12 rounds – to sit fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, 312 points behind a Red Bull side that has dominated every single race.
Leclerc, though, has commended his Ferrari team for rebounding from the early disappointment it encountered, praising the engineers’ relentless pursuit of bringing upgrades to the track ahead of schedule as it bids to return to winning ways.
“Before the first race, the target was to do a step better, compared to last year, which was to win the World Championship,” Leclerc admitted.
“If we look at the first half of the year, we are very far from where we put our expectations before the season.
“So, on the other hand, as soon as we understood that, we reset it and there was an incredible reaction from the team. They brought upgrades, sometimes a month and a half earlier, and this requires a lot of effort from everybody at Maranello. And this, we saw that, it helped us have great results.”
But like Ferrari Team Principal Frederic Vasseur, Leclerc has warned the Scuderia must get a handle on the consistency issues that have blighted its 2023 campaign.
Ferrari performed strongly throughout the weekend at the high-speed Spa-Francorchamps circuit having initially anticipated a tough outing, whilst the opposite applied for the round prior to that at the twisty Hungaroring venue.
Leclerc secured third place in Belgium, enabling Ferrari to head into the summer break on a much more positive note after enduring two complicated Sundays at the British and Hungarian Grands Prix.
“I think we still need to try to understand – because if I do a step back in the last two races, I think we expected to be much more competitive in Budapest than on a track like here and at the end, it’s the opposite,” he explained.
“So, these are things that we need to look at because maybe we haven’t optimised the package in races like Budapest and maybe we’ve done something that was surprisingly good on a track like here.
“So, it’s good, anyway, to finish on a positive note the first part of the season and now we will take the time of the summer break – or at least whenever the guys can work again – to try to analyse those two last races and hopefully maximise the package at all races for the second half of the season.”
Ferrari’s early season prospects were often stymied by a troublesome SF-23 car that possessed a strong turn of speed over a single lap but degraded its tyres too quickly to maintain that pace through a race.
While the past three races have been more promising, Leclerc has cautioned that the unpredictable nature of Ferrari’s 2023 package has left him unconvinced the team has got on top of its tyre problems.
“I think it’s a bit too early to say but it’s been two or three races where we are managing our tyres better,” he acknowledged.
“I think today, this was definitely not the reason why we finished so far behind the Red Bulls, I think they were just quicker. But in terms of tyre management, we didn’t have a huge degradation. And also looking at Mercedes behind, I was in control of the pace of my tyres.
“So on that it looked good, we still need to keep an eye on that because sometimes, especially in very specific conditions, we sometimes get off the window of the tyres, the right window, and then we struggle quite a lot.”