Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024

Leclerc surprised by Mercedes’ “strong” performance in practice

Formula 1

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Mercedes’ performance in practice yesterday impressed Charles Leclerc, as the two W15s headed the times in Bahrain.

However he also believes Ferrari are starting the 2024 season in a stronger place than last year. Leclerc set the ninth fastest time of the Thursday’s second practice session with team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr four tenths off Mercedes’ best lap of the day in fourth.

“I feel quite good with the car,” Leclerc said. “It’s a much better start compared to last year, where last year we arrived at the first race and it was very difficult to know exactly what was the right window where we could optimise our car. Today, that’s not the case.

“We know that we are in the right window for performing at our best with this specific car. And now it’s all about Friday to try and anticipate the conditions of Friday and make the best out of this weekend.”

After running the SF-24 in last week’s pre-season test, Leclerc said there were “no bad surprises” from his new car one the first day of the opening race weekend of the season.

“That is a good thing – no bad surprises,” he said. “No good surprises either, just exactly as we expected the car to be.

“We went through our programme. FP2, I did a small mistake on my fast lap and it’s a one lap tyre, so then that was it. But apart from that it’s all about tomorrow now, trying to focus to do a step forward.”

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell ended the day fastest for Mercedes, which caught Leclerc’s eye.

“Mercedes look strong, which is a bit of a surprise for now. But we don’t know with which fuel [map] they are running, so I think we’ll have all our answers on Friday.”

While Leclerc expects Red Bull to be strongest when it matters most, he says he believes Ferrari will be in the thick of the fight behind them.

“I will be surprised if that is not the case, for sure,” he said. “I expect to be there with the others.

“The only question mark is obviously Red Bull, how far ahead they are in front. But with the others, I will be surprised if we are not in the mix, yes.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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One comment on “Leclerc surprised by Mercedes’ “strong” performance in practice”

  1. Leclerc to Mercedes confirmed! Now, let’s have Hulkenberg to Ferrari!

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