Charles Leclerc is hopeful that Ferrari can replicate its race-winning pace from Singapore at this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
After securing pole position and contesting victory in the early stages at Monza, Ferrari anticipated struggling upon the return to a high-downforce circuit configuration.
However, the Italian marque topped all three practice sessions at the Marina Bay Circuit before Carlos Sainz claimed a second consecutive pole and led every lap on his way to ending Ferrari’s year-long win drought.
Leclerc, who eventually trundled home fourth after being caught out by a Safety Car, believes Ferrari will have to wait until its SF-23 car encounters the Suzuka track to see if it can challenge for top spot once more.
“I really hope it’s possible to reproduce that in Suzuka and I’m really looking forward to see that because if we do that, then it’s a really good sign for the future,” he addressed.
“I think, as I’ve said coming here, in Zandvoort we ran lots of tests, in Monza we wanted to reconfirm those tests and the understanding of the car and for here we applied everything and it seems to be a big step forward.
“Having said that, Singapore has historically been a very good track for us so we need to wait one more race in order to see if we have done a really good step forward consistently, or if it’s a one off but this I can only tell after Japan.”
Ferrari’s first win of 2023 came about by being able to capitalise on the surprise demise of Red Bull, who had won every single race prior to struggling extensively across the Singapore Grand Prix weekend.
Both Red Bull drivers failed to make the cut for Q3 in qualifying, with Max Verstappen proceeding to recover to fifth on Sunday while Sergio Perez ended up eighth.
But Leclerc isn’t anticipating a repeat of the Austrian camp’s troubles in Japan.
“I wouldn’t get carried away too much,” he cautioned. “I think Red Bull, they are always the main guys to beat and I think in Japan they will be back to where they used to be so let’s wait and see.
“If we really understood that much, honestly if we did that much of a step forward I don’t think it’s expected so it would be a good surprise.”
While the Monegasque racer is ecstatic with Ferrari’s recent progress, he accepts that he has been lagging behind team-mate Sainz during the past two race weekends.
When asked how encouraged he was by the team’s gains, Leclerc said: “It’s amazing.
“On the other hand, I’m also focusing on myself and I know that the last two race weekends haven’t been the best on my side so I’m really pushing to try to do that step forward and to hopefully look in the medium term what we can do to make me more comfortable in the car.”
Leclerc also insists that he never had any concerns about the pathway to success under current team boss Frederic Vasseur, who replaced Mattia Binotto over the winter.
“Since Fred arrived he has always been very honest with myself in terms of direction to take for the team and I’ve always been completely on board,” he added. “So, yeah, I fully trust that we are on the right direction.
“How long will it take for us to be back at the top? It will be again a huge surprise if we manage to solve all our problems from two races ago to now and I really don’t think that’s the case, but we are working in the right direction.”