Charles Leclerc says Ferrari’s new car immediately felt better than its predecessor, which he knew had problems within his first four laps in it last year.
He and team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr put the first handful of laps on the SF-24 at the team’s Fiorano test track following today’s launch. Leclerc compared his first experience of the car to the team’s 2023 model.
“I remember that after the first lap last year, or if it wasn’t the first lap, it was the first three or four laps, I wasn’t really happy with the behaviour of the car,” Leclerc told media including RaceFans. “The car was very, very difficult to drive. This year the car feels healthier and in a better place.”
However Leclerc said that initial positive assessment shouldn’t be taken as meaning they will necessarily be much more competitive than last year.
“I want to push on the point that this doesn’t mean anything on the competitiveness of the car,” he explained. “Because if other teams have done a bigger steps forward in terms of lap time gains, then it can be an easier car drive but if it’s not fast enough, it won’t be fast enough on-track.
“So in terms of competitiveness, it’s very difficult. In terms of actual feeling of the very first laps, I would say I’ve had a better feeling this year than I did last year.”
Ferrari’s drivers impressed upon the team the need to make the new car easier to drive at the limit compared to the 2023 model, and not just increase its peak downforce, said Leclerc.
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“This has changed a little bit over the years,” he explained, “in the way that now there’s so much technology that the overall scope of every car is to try and add more downforce, and this is what engineers are working on day and night.
“On the other hand there was obviously a clear input from us drivers, which was the drive-ability of the 2023 car, which was extremely sensitive to wind direction changes, to outside conditions changing. That was making it very, very difficult for us to extract the maximum out of the car because as soon as one of these elements changed slightly, the behaviour of the car was completely different. On that there’s been a lot of work.”
The initial impression is Ferrari’s engineers have been successful, said Leclerc, though he is wary of not getting carried away at this early stage. “Based on the simulator, we’ve done a significant step forward on that. Based on the…