Charles Leclerc predicts Ferrari “should be closer” to Red Bull in China

Charles Leclerc is confident Ferrari will be closer to Red Bull in China.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai, China, Preparation
Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Chinese…

Charles Leclerc expects Ferrari to be a step closer to Red Bull in performance terms at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Red Bull secured their third 1-2 of the season last time out at Suzuka with Max Verstappen winning by over 12 seconds.

Carlos Sainz was the closest non-Red Bull driver, finishing just under 20 seconds off the lead.

Ferrari are expected to fare better at Shanghai given it’s a front-limited circuit - meaning the front tyres are loaded for longer through corners and thus suffer more tyre degradation than the rears - and the combination of corners don’t favour the RB20 as much as Suzuka.

Speaking in the FIA press conference, Leclerc explained why he’s confident of being closer to Red Bull on race day.

“I think in the race we will be, yes,” he said. “But let’s see. It’s been a very long time since we didn’t drive here.

“I think the track was painted or there’s something strange on it so we will have to see how our car behaves with that and what the main limitations are in the race. On the paper, we should be closer to them, yes.”

Leclerc has enjoyed a consistent start to the year, finishing inside the top four in all of the races so far.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-24. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Race Day. -
Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-24. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4,…

However, qualifying has been a key weakness for Leclerc in 2024, struggling to match teammate Sainz in Australia or Japan.

Throughout his F1 career, qualifying has been one of his main strengths, and Leclerc has stressed the need to extract the maximum from the SF-24 over one lap because there’s two qualifying sessions this weekend amid return of the sprint format.

“I think the level of confidence is quite stable since the beginning of the season,” he added. “On paper, I think it’s a track where we could be a bit stronger compared to Suzuka but we will just approach it the same way.

“I still think Red Bull will have the upper hand this weekend. We will just have to focus on ourselves because it can be very easy as we have seen especially in qualifying in Suzuka I didn’t do a good job on the Saturday - you don’t go from fourth to fifth, you go from fourth to eighth. 

“It’s going to be very important - sprint weekend with two qualifyings to extract the maximum out of the car. In the race, I think we are quite strong this year.”

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