Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

Leclerc believes Ferrari’s rivals are “sandbagging”

2019 F1 season

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Charles Leclerc suspects Ferrari’s rivals are disguising their true pace after the Mercedes drivers claimed the Italian team has begun testing in strong shape.

Earlier today Valtteri Bottas said Ferrari’s lap times were convincing regardless of their fuel load or engine mode. But speaking to RaceFans and other media at the Circuit de Cataluntya this afternoon Leclerc played down Ferrari’s promising start to the season.

“The performance has no sense for now because it remains testing,” he said. “They are probably not pushing and we are not either. We don’t know how much the others are sandbagging so we’ll see at the first race.

“I think the main importance for this test is to do the program of the day and that’s what we are doing so we are happy.”

Leclerc has joined the team from Sauber, which is now Alfa Romeo. But despite having stepped into a potentially race-winning seat Leclerc says he isn’t entertaining thoughts of being able to win the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

“I’m not really focusing on the result at the moment,” he said. “As I’ve said in the past I think if I’m focusing mainly on myself, trying to do the best job possible in the car and out of the car, I’m pretty sure that the results will come at one point.

“So I just need to focus fully on myself. I don’t want to put in my head ‘okay I need to win the first race’. This is not what is in my head at the moment. I just want to grow as much as possible until the first race, be as comfortable as possible in the team and with the car and then the results will come.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 33 comments on “Leclerc believes Ferrari’s rivals are “sandbagging””

    1. Vettel Fan 17 (@)
      21st February 2019, 13:47

      It seems like every year each teams says “our rivals are faster”.

      We’ll see who’s bluffing and who isn’t in Australia. No one is going to show their true pace right now obviously.

      1. I have noticed in the last few seasons that it seems to be a planned strategy of Mercedes in particular to try to put the pressure on Ferrari by lauding their testing performance. I’ve noticed it in pre-season testing and I’ve noticed it on Fridays. It’s a clever – albeit annoying – strategy and I dare say it works. Is the viewpoint Mercedes publicise ever based on their true expectations of their main rival’s performance? I would say, quite the opposite: Mercedes would never big up Ferrari if they really thought that Ferrari were ahead of the game.

    2. Indeed they are, which, of course, is always the case with testing.

    3. Leclerc please don’t start with excuses. You always, always go for the win. If not, then we have another driver cruising around, happy with 3rd or 4th position.

      1. A driver in his position, as a rookie, will be different to Lewis or Seb. He will be going for the win (as all drivers do), but doesn’t expect to win. Whereas drivers like Lewis, Seb etc. will be going for the win and see no reason why they shouldn’t win.
        Also, we don’t know if he was employed as a No. 2 driver or has equal status. Ferrari have, traditionally, always had a 1 & 2 driver.

      2. This is the real irony about mindset. Focusing on winning takes you out of the present moment and staying focused on what it is you are doing. He’s talking about mindset. Focusing on the moment and doing your own job is how people win. That was what Lewis was talking about yesterday when he said Ferrari looks strong, but they are just focused on themselves. That is the mindset that wins. Lewis’s greatest personal accomplishment since his early days is having cultivated that mindset. His wins and championships are the result of not only his own mindset, but his entire team.

        By contrast, Verstappen at the start of last year and Vettel toward the end of it started focusing on the win and the points, respectively, and that’s the most likely reason for their mistakes. Only they and their sports psychologists really know for sure, but given what they have each said since, it’s a fair guess. The atmosphere at Ferrari very starkly lacked that focused mindset and instead was focused on results. Marchionne blatantly said as much. It creates toxicity and a lack of focus that breeds mistakes.

        Charles isn’t giving anybody excuses. He’s showing why, even at 21 years old, he is likely to become a world champion.

        1. Thank you..
          The first truly intelligent thing I’ve read in internet comments in a long time.

        2. Leclerc and you have used so much words as focus and focusing that I suspect you and Charles are owning Ford Focus and loving it! :-)

      3. @pietko He’ll be going for the win. He’s a clever kid and he knows he’ll be making a rod for his own back if he comes out and says “Yup, P1 in Australia is in the bag” and then qualifies P6 and crashes at the first corner.

      4. There is a difference between “want” and “need”. Charles will always want to be P1 and not to cruise round, but those who need to be P1 and for any reason cannot, put unnecessary pressure onto themselves and slow themselves down.

        Since Charles wants to go quickly, he’s better off sticking to wanting to be P1, doing his very best at all times, and seeing where that gets him.

    4. Ooooh get a load of that!
      Opinions already, and only in the job less than five minutes…lol

    5. The testing is not just about the car. It is also about testing the tires and learning their characteristics. Longer slower stints make sense because in race scenario you need to drive very slowly anyways to save fuel, engine and tires so you can stretch a possible 2 stopper into one stop. So even if mercedes are driving really slowly it doesn’t necessarily mean it is sandbagging. It can still be very useful data and in f1 slow driving is very useful.

    6. Toto would never sandbag.

      1. 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

      2. He never says he is sandbagging just driving their laps doing their program. Ofcourse he isn’t showing his best car speed but he isn’t sand bagging but he is German maybe he doesn’t know the word sandbagging.

        1. It is “only” testing, but watch what happens each time Leclerc puts up a faster time than Vettel.
          Going t be an interesting year.

        2. Toto schützt Sandsäcken…

        3. Big Toto’s Austrian btw 😁🙈

      3. This must be your first year following F1.

    7. Williams definitely are.

      1. @bullfrog is either way over optimistic about Williams, or doesn’t know what sandbagging means….

        …hint, it doesn’t mean BEING slow.

        1. If you are sandbagging it’s most convincing when everyone thinks your slow.

        2. Is xcm sandbagging about his sarcasm understanding skills?

          1. Think not, sumedh!

        3. Xcm Whatever William’s true speed, it is faster than 0 mph, making their first 2.5 days the most comprehensive inadvertent sandbag operation we’ll see all winter.

          Note that due to everyone being on the their own programs, lots of subtler inadvertent (and possibly some deliberate) sandbagging will happen.

    8. Well done Leclerc – you answered that question like a professional but then, i guess you’re not contractually obliged to do otherwise.

    9. Is it sandbagging or a lack of showboating? They seem just to have a program during testing and stick strictly to that. No reason to do otherwise and may have something to do with their success. Either way they seem to get into the heads of their rivals. Should provide some good Vettle coming unstuck moments.

    10. Well, I don’t think everyone is setting qualifying laps.

    11. My, my. Indoctrinated by Ferrari already!

      1. Him speaking the truth is a problem for you?

      2. @mitch1945 Charles has been in the Ferrari Driver Academy for three years. If he hadn’t picked up some basic common sense by this point, he would probably never have done so…

    12. toto is king.

    Comments are closed.