Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024 pre-season test

“Red Bull unfortunately remains quite a bit ahead” – Leclerc

Formula 1

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Ferrari have the fastest time after two days of pre-season testing but Charles Leclerc believes they have not significantly closed the gap to Red Bull during the off-season.

“My initial feeling is that Red Bull unfortunately remains quite a bit ahead,” he told the official F1 channel during today’s test.

His team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr set the pace today with a best time of 1’29.921 on the C4 tyre compound. However Max Verstappen was comfortably quickest yesterday, lapping in 1’31.344 on the C3s, more than a second quicker than the competition.

“Yesterday they’ve done very impressive lap times,” Leclerc acknowledged. “But this is only my own feeling, not looking at data, because again, data doesn’t mean much for now.”

“For now, it’s too early to say, we have no idea what are the fuel levels of everybody else,” he added.

Leclerc is encouraged by the improvements Ferrari have made their new SF-24. “In terms of driveability, the car is a lot better compared to last year,” he said.

“Last year, after the test, it was very, very difficult to push into a direction because we just didn’t know what the car was doing. We would get into a corner and we didn’t know whether we will have extreme oversteer or extreme understeer, which was a big problem.

“This year the car is not like that, which is a better starting point.”

That should allow them to address a key weakness of last year’s car. “I think the driveability is going to help us on the long runs,” he said. “I think that for tyre degradation, for race runs overall, I think we should be in a better place.”

Leclerc’s second day in the car was disrupted when he struck a loose drain cover. It damaged the floor of the SF-24 and forced Ferrari to switch to a spare. “It wasn’t huge,” he said. “There was a bit of a hole in the floor which we had to change.

“I had no warning. I saw something, but it was so thin that I thought it was a plastic thing. We see sometimes some of them around the track and we just go on them and nothing is happening. But this time obviously it was metal so it hurt the car a little bit more.”

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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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12 comments on ““Red Bull unfortunately remains quite a bit ahead” – Leclerc”

  1. So, clearly Ferrari are not title contenders. Let’s see how everyone manages their development over time.

    1. Probably not but a bit early to tell, I’ll wait until Q3 next week before I give up on this season as finished

      1. Indeed, in fact I’d give it the first race as well, if you look back at the first race of 2018, merc looked dominant in quali, then in the race, although they still had the best car, ferrari was much closer (not the reason they won ofc).

      2. And even if you look at last season: if we only looked at quali, red bull wasn’t really that dominant, it’s their race pace which was the killer.

  2. Ferrari are on the same level with Red Bull. The SF-24 have caught the RB19, Sainz’s race simulation mirrors Verstappen’s performance from last year’s GP. The bad news though is that the RB20 is rumoured to be a second faster than its predecessor. With this in mind, RBR might resort to tactics like sandbagging à la Mercedes and using conservative PU modes to avoid F1 scrutiny and safeguard any strategic advantages they’ve developed.

    Unless something dramatic happens with regard to the rules, it seems unlikely that any team will pose a serious challenge to RBR for the championship until 2026.

    1. Should be cotd for spitting 100% facts.

      1. Rumours and speculation are not fact.

        Is Red Bull still dominant? Very possible. It’s the others’ job to prove otherwise. But we don’t know yet.

        There is no need to overanalyse testing times. We will see next week.

        1. No. Let me tell you. Redbull is still dominant and will remain untill at least 2026. Convergence is a lie. Show previously proof. I am not even going off testing times. It’s not necessary to. They can try but as long as rudbulls structure remains intact they don’t have a chance till 2026 unless they need redbull beforehand. We know indeed, because convergence is a lie.

          1. Convergence isn’t a lie. All the teams have quickly converged bar one, which is because they have the designer equivalent of Max-Alonso-Hamilton in one. Until he’s gone, handicapped by a terrible engine or unreliability of some sort, this will continue to occur.

        2. Wether this rumour is true or not is irrelevant.

    2. If that rumour turns out to be true then I think a lot of questions need asking. RBR’s development was resticted massively as part of their punishment for breaching the budget cap so if they’re still making big strides it’s likely they’ve done it again (after all if you get away with it once then why not do it again?)

  3. I really hope they fixed the fact their car eats through their tires on raceday. And although Leclerc here states the better drivability helps with that, when you watch this interview on camera, he was unsure to answer it. I fear they still have the same challenge on Sundays.

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