Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2022

Matching Red Bull’s development rate will be “difficult”, warns Leclerc

2022 Australian Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc says Ferrari face a challenge to develop their car as quickly as Red Bull can.

Having taken a 34-point lead in the drivers championship over the first three rounds, Leclerc said the situation feels different to his title bids in junior formulae.

“I’ve been in this situation in the junior categories but then to be in this situation in Formula 1 means a lot,” he said. “Especially after the last few years, and especially with a team like Ferrari. So it feels incredible.

“Obviously, the mindset is a bit different compared to the last two years because now I know that underneath me I’ve got a car that is capable of winning and I don’t really have to overdo things or to do something extremely special and spectacular to actually get one or two positions because I know that it’s in the car and I just have to do the job. So the mindset is a little bit different this year.”

Red Bull were a close match for Ferrari on pace over the opening two races, winning in Saudi Arabia. Leclerc cautioned that Ferrari’s rivals had every chance of catching up to them.

“To keep up with Red Bull in terms of development is going to be difficult. But it’s the same team that did this car, that will work on the development for this year’s car, so I am confident.

“There is no reason for us to be on the back foot because we’ve done a great job, the guys at Maranello have done a great job, building up this car for this year.”

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Ferrari lead the constructors’ title with 104 points. Red Bull’s three retirements in the opening rounds leave them third in the standings on 55.

Leclerc believes it is crucial for Ferrari to focus on their plan for bringing updates to their F1-75 chassis.

“There are some developments coming and I’m confident that it will go in the right direction,” he said. “So I wouldn’t focus too much on the others. I think we need to focus on ourselves.

“Since the last two years, I really see a jump in the way we’ve analysed every weekend in the way we have identified also our weaknesses and how quick we were to react to try and get better in the places where we were struggling. So I am confident that the team can do a great job with development this year.”

He is trying not to dwell on the championship situation as the team heads to its first of two home races this year at Imola. “Thirty-four points is always good to take wherever you are in the calendar but I don’t want to focus too much on the championship for now,” Leclerc said.

“Italy will be incredible, but we need to approach the race weekend, just like we approached the first three weekends. I think it’s extremely important not to put on ourselves extra pressure and not try to overdo things. Because we are working, I think, as a team extremely well since the beginning of the season and we just need to keep doing our job, just like we did in the first three weekends.”

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2022 Australian Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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29 comments on “Matching Red Bull’s development rate will be “difficult”, warns Leclerc”

  1. I don’t understand why it would be difficult. They have the same budget (Ferrari’s historically apparently slightly higher, but there’s a budget cap now), Ferrari has more windtunnel time under the current allocation based on last years performance, they have the same level of staff quality (in theory at least, they should). So why wouldn’t they have difficulty matching Red Bull’s development rate?

    1. would they have*

      -edit button, any day now.

    2. @sjaakfoo Indeed. Same budget limit, etc., should help in the development race + wind tunnel time, which they have more until June-end (less for this year’s latter six months if they’re ahead in the WCC standings at that point.)

      1. Maybe they acknowledge RBR have better human resources in the tech department… at least that’s how I see it from the outside.

    3. @sjaakfoo Ferrari got out-developed in 2017 and 18 by Mercedes. Even before the hybrid era they got out-developed often, by Red Bull in 2012 and 13 (and Mercedes too, in the latter case). A lot of it was down to their faulty wind tunnel back in those days, with persistent correlation issues.

      So there’s definitely a precedent for that, which is what Leclerc is cautious about.

      1. @wsrgo
        I disagree. Ferrari didn’t get out-developed in 2017, they just tripped over their own feet with individual errors and reliability issues. Seb’s retirements in Singapore and Suzuka alone cost him at least 47 points over Hamilton, which would’ve put him ahead of the Mercedes. He also won the penultimate race of the season, so the Ferrari was still very quick in the final stages of the championship.
        As for the constructor’s championship that season, they probably wouldn’ve won it anyway, even without the reliability issues. Though that was more down to Kimi underperforming for most part of the season.

        The Ferrari was never a particularly quick car in 2012, even after the Mugello test. It was terrible at the start of the season, then better after the in-season test (though still just about the 3rd quickest car at best), but it never really was the benchmark. The RB was the quicker car from the beginning, so not really a surprise they won the championship fight. RB’s and McLaren’s bad reliability and Alonso’s great skills was what kept Ferraro in the championship. The Ferrari was never a threat to those teams in the constructor’s championship, which is very telling.

        1. @srga91 Given that Vettel took 4 wins in the first 10 races and just 1 in the next 10 (in Brazil, which btw, all he needed to win was beat Bottas off the line since Lewis had to start at the back after crashing in quali), I’m inclined to believe that they did indeed, get out-developed. Also, their pace in Malaysia and Japan never looked like it would beat Merc, even before the reliability failures. Singapore is the only exception (Merc’s long wheelbase was hopeless in the tight and twisty bits all year anyway, so more down to the track characteristics than genuine pace).

          In 2012, Ferrari genuinely had among the quickest cars mid-season in both quali and race conditions. By the end of the year, Alonso was struggling to qualify in the top-5, mainly because their updates post-Monza did not work as intended. Alonso qualified 6th, 9th and 8th in Abu Dhabi, USA and Brazil, which was far lower than his average grid position of 4.6 between Spain and India.

          1. @wsrgo
            It was actually 4 wins out of the first 11 (Hungary was the 11th race) and then one out of the rest (9) of them for Vettel.
            The Ferrari was a little bit faster in Spa (race, not qualifying), but Vettel couldn’t pass Hamilton, because the Mercedes was too fast on the straights.
            In Malaysia Vettel started from the back of the grid, charged through the field, set the fastest lap and closed up to the back of Ricciardo. Had he managed to pass the RB, he would’ve also closed the gap to Hamilton. The Ferrari was certainly faster than the Mercedes that day.
            Suzuka was a little different, because the Mercedes was very quick in qualifying, but Hamilton struggled with his tyres during the race. The fact that Verstappen only finished 1.5 sec behind Hamilton shows that Vettel would’ve at least had a chance to win the race.
            In Mexico the Ferrari was faster as well, especially because the Mercedes had big tyre problems during the race and Hamilton barely made it into the points. Without the contact on the first lap, Vettel would’ve given Verstappen a good run for his money and might’ve won the race.
            So it seems that Ferrari could’ve won at least three more races after the summer break in 2017, it just didn’t happen because of various factors. The potential was still there.

            Regarding 2012, I’m still not convinced about Ferrari getting out-developed over the course of the season. Alonso only won one race on pure pace, which was the German GP. But even there Button was slightly faster. The Ferrari had simply better top speed which made it tough for the McLaren to overtake.
            Yes, qualifying got trickier for Ferrari in the final stages of the championship, but Alonso still finished on the podium at every GP after the summer break (his retirements at Spa and Suzuka excluded). I just don’t think the F2012 was ever a good car, also judging by Massa’s performances.

          2. @srga91, @wsrgo
            Ferrari lost competitiveness in the second part of the 2017 season. That’s correct but that doesn’t mean that they were out developed by Mercedes. The reason why Ferrari slump in the development race was mainly political as Toto kept lobbying the FIA who issued TDs with regard to the Ferrari floor and especially the oil burn trick.

            The oil burn saga came to light when RBR requested a clarification about it back in 2015. Nico Rosberg’s car was subject to a check by the FIA in the 2015 Canadian GP and fuel samples were taken. The FIA continued napping for almost 2 seasons till 2017 where Mercedes guys noticed that Ferrari’s use of oil burn trickery was far better than they have expected and they decided to blew the whistle.

            At first, Ferrari were asked to remove a secondary oil tank from the SF70H in Baku that was believed to contain a different type of oil to the primary tank which enabled Ferrari to increase its PU performance by deploying a more aggressive map and reliability at the same time. This decision did have a clear impact on Ferrari PU performance and development plan. That drop in both performance and reliability is what many believe was the reason behind Lorenzo Sassi losing his job as a Head of Powertrains.

            Second, Mercedes introduced their final upgraded PU in Spa instead of Monza to continue operating it within the limit of 1.2L of oil per 100km while the rest of the manufacturers who introduced their 3rd PU from Monza have had respect the stricter limit of 0.9L of oil per 100 km. The oil burn ban was mishandled by the FIA as it took them two seasons to close the loopholes related to it and in those years Renault & especially Ferrari took it to the next level which in a way upset Mercedes. That’s why they suffered the most when the ban was effective.

            Also, their pace in Malaysia and Japan never looked like it would beat Merc, even before the reliability failures.

            Raikkonen qualified second less than a tenth from Hamilton’s car which suggests that there was still pace in the Ferrari given Vettel’s ability to be constantly faster than Raikkonen in qualy in that season. Vettel was the fastest race car in Malaysia. He did a blistering stint of 20 or something laps that were unmatched by the Mercedes drivers and took the fastest lap of the race.

            As for the 2012 car, Ferrari started with a car slower than RBR, Mclaren, Lotus and Williams. That’s a fact, the engineers couldn’t understand how the airflow behaved in that car and how to solve the overheating issues in the first 4 or 5 races.

            Ferrari gradually upgraded the car but in Hungaroring they realised that they have reached the peak performance of the project and the development curve is already flat. From that onwards they introduced upgrades that only improved the driveability of the car. It’s not that the upgrades weren’t working, they were working indeed but didn’t improve performance, it improved only the driveability.

            That’s one of the reasons why Massa suddenly came alive pace wise at the end of the season and was sometimes faster than Alonso in both qualy and races that required Ferrari to use team orders.

          3. I’m somewhere in the middle regarding the 2017 season, I think ferrari got outdeveloped, but I remember well races like malaysia, and the order was red bull > ferrari > mercedes, verstappen overtook hamilton very quickly and pulled away 10 sec by the end, and vettel as it’s been said had a good recovery, even jumped bottas in the pits, who had a mercedes starting in a regular position!

            I have no doubt he would’ve been 2nd, in front of hamilton, if he had been starting in a regular position; singapore I think hamilton had good chances to win or get 2nd regardless, considering the first wet part; mexico is one of the cases where it was too close to call imo between the 3 teams, verstappen dominated and bottas ended up much less farther behind than raikkonen, but that’s probably on the drivers, the reason vettel ended up recovering much more places than hamilton is he had a smaller problem (wing to replace, hamilton had a puncture, hence lost more before getting back).

    4. I don’t understand why it would be difficult

      Because Ferrari have been rubbish at in season development ever since they banned in season unlimited testing. Even with their resources, they’ve always been one of the most inefficient spenders and get less bang for their buck than rivals. Red bull have been destroying Ferrari in the 2010s because of this. The only way I see Ferrari beating red bull this year is on reliability, since Red bull are probably clueless on improving their engine reliability.

      1. I think Ferrari’s in season development has increased significantly since 2018. Granted they were nowhere until 2017. But in 2018, the in-season development was good enough to give even Kimi a win in Austin. The development got masked by Vettel’s spins.

        In 2019 again, their in-season development while illegal, was very evident. And they also developed their car accordingly to work with their illegal engine. They clearly knew how to develop thei car then. Which is why they failed so miserably in 2020.

        Once the illegal engine saga was over, they knew what to change for 2021 and promptly did that in the off season. Even in 2021, they slowly edged away from McLaren throughout the season and were easily 3rd best team.

        Ferrari under Binotto have clearly changed this particular trait. I feel they can definitely match Red Bull this year when it comes to in-season development.

  2. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    13th April 2022, 8:49

    Is this what is called getting your excuses in early?

    1. Allan (@allancuttingedge)
      13th April 2022, 9:03

      Being humble = getting excuses? Lol…

    2. Strange.. I never noticed a similar remark about the sandbag ging and putting an underdog attitude by Mercedes.
      It’s refreshing to hear Charles and binotto talk about the car and its performance in honest ways.
      Probably that’s new for you and the reason you do not understand Charles.

  3. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    13th April 2022, 8:51

    This will definitely be Ferrari’s biggest challenge. In recent challenges they fell back massively to Mercedes in the second half of the seasons.

    1. Yes, 2018 wasn’t that bad if they hadn’t had to try something because of vettel, the car was up there at monza, it’s just he kept making mistake after mistake, then they tried something different, which backfire and made them uncompetitive for 3 races.

      1. backfired*

  4. Upgrading their car has been Ferrari’s weak point for seasons. On the contrary, RBR are known to upgrade effectively and have a strong second half of the season.
    Leclerc knows the history and therefore is cautious.

  5. The way I see it the cars are roughly equal. Red Bull is only loosing through reliability so they only need to make small gains and a few reliability fixes to get on top. Obviously the same applies to Ferrari but recently they don’t seem to gain much in season.

    1. I’m not sure about that. They were roughly equal in Saudi, with the difference being in top speed vs downforce, but in Melbourne the Ferrari was clearly superior.

      For now Ferrari clearly holds all the cards, best car, very good first driver, maximum budget, more windtunnel time that their two main rivals, and an impressive early lead in both championship titles.

      Dream start, don’t see why it wouldnt last. After all, the people that will do the continuous development are the same who delivered the excellent car they are no driving I assume?

      1. The difference in Saudi was Max. He was driving way riskier. Even just from the highlights, you can see how much closer he is to the barriers.

        Here is a sample

        He could get all three poles though probably. So qualifying was a bottle job this season, but credit where credit’s due in the one race he finished and won.

      2. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
        13th April 2022, 15:36

        The setup was wrong on the ORBR and it destroyed its front left tyre well before the Ferrari. So many times drivers have spoken about just pushing a little more than the tyres can cope with and they overheat and no more racing after that point.

  6. I think the title is a little miss leading.

    “To keep up with Red Bull in terms of development is going to be difficult. But it’s the same team that did this car, that will work on the development for this year’s car, so I am confident.”

    This is more about belief than concern about his team.

  7. Imola is usually a strong track for PER. It should also be another track that works well with the RB18. Looking forward to another PER Pole position 🤞

    1. Interesting point that. I know Sergio started his F1 dream in Germany but I had no idea at one point the Germans called him “The Mexican Wunderkind”.

  8. Last time Ferrari were fighting for the championship (Vettel vs Hamilton), the car actually went backwards. So hopefully they’ll check properly if an upgrade works before putting it on the car.

    1. @paeschli True, but both the Ferrari drivers (Vettel) and the team took risks under pressure that backfired, putting them under more pressure, forcing more mistakes on and off track. This time Red Bull seem to be a bit behind and the team pushing too hard (given their race failures). So I think Leclerc should be confident – actually he does seem to be confident enough and just saying, in that quote, that the development race will be intense, not that he expects Ferrari to lose it.

  9. I think leclerc is saying here what I predicted before as well: there were people saying he was in the verstappen phase of risking too much and that he’d have to change that for the title, I don’t think it’s about that, I think it’s about the car you have, if you have a car like this year’s red bull it makes sense to risk, anyway it rarely gets to the end, and also like this year’s mercedes since it’s not so fast, if you have a championship contender it makes sense to be careful and get the points.

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