Charles Leclerc’s “feeling better than the test”

Ferrari experienced a rather mixed first day of practice in the new 2023 Formula 1 season.

Charles Leclerc finished fourth in Bahrain on Friday, just under half a second behind, while team-mate Carlos Sainz only had to settle for 14th place. It became clear: A win against Red Bull on Sunday will be quite difficult.

Although the gap to the Bulls was “only” three tenths of a second over one lap, the team of world champion Max Verstappen was ahead, especially in the long run. And then there was Aston Martin, who surprisingly were also able to set a good pace.

At Ferrari, the drivers gave different feedback – and yet in the same way. Because both drivers state that the car behaves completely differently than during the test drives. But while one person is happy about it, it is not good news for the other.

It’s positive for Leclerc: “The feeling is better than during the test drives,” says the Monegasse. “It was pretty inconsistent for me in testing because we tried a lot of things and I didn’t have a lot of time with a car that was how I want it to be. Today was different and I think it’s pretty good ran,” said Leclerc.

Sainz struggles with the car

Team-mate Sainz also says that the car doesn’t feel like it did during the tests. But he means that negatively: “The car just doesn’t react the way I expect it to,” says the Spaniard. “It’s giving me some balance issues, but we’re looking at it and expecting it to be right again tomorrow.”

Sainz’ difficulties can also be demonstrated by a spin he had before turn 10 in the first practice session. “We tested a few things in the car and just drove the mediums that we wanted to get rid of in the first practice session,” he explains. “And that didn’t go according to plan. But that wasn’t on purpose.”

Luckily the Spaniard didn’t hit anything and was then able to continue his training.

Aston Martin beatable on Saturday?

The next two days will tell what the times are worth, but Ferrari have to admit that it could be difficult against Red Bull. “You’re a step ahead of everyone else,” Leclerc has to admit. “And Aston Martin also looked very strong.”

The Monegasse hopes that the performance of the greens is simply due to the track, but he is not sure. “But I think that Aston might be a bit faster than they will be tomorrow. But we don’t know that. Let’s wait and see.”

Sainz adds: “I’m not sure if they are good enough to beat Red Bull, but they definitely seem to be in the fight.” But the Spaniard doesn’t look at that anyway: “We’re concentrating on ourselves and hopefully we can take another step tomorrow and be back at the top.”

Leclerc doesn’t believe in pole position

If the car then feels like it did in the tests and gets a good lap together, then he assumes that a good result can come out of it. “It’s impossible to predict, but it should definitely be better than today,” he says.

Meanwhile, Leclerc ruled out pole position because Ferrari lacked the pace. “But we can get involved, and whenever we have races that are a bit more difficult, we should be there and try to take every opportunity,” said the runner-up world champion. “And that’s what we’re going to try this weekend.”

But he knows that Ferrari is facing a difficult Sunday: “We still have the most work to do with race pace,” he says. “But of course we don’t know what the others are driving. We know what we’ve done and we can still improve a little, but let’s wait and see.”