Formula 1 Racing

Leclerc knew Ferrari could win F1 Australian GP from FP1

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Second-starting Sainz passed polesitter Max Verstappen around the outside on lap two before the Red Bull champion retired with a fiery rear-right brake failure. That enabled Leclerc to complete a Ferrari 1-2.

While Verstappen’s car was ailing from the race start, which made the RB20 feel as though the “handbrake” was left on, the Ferrari duo believed they were already in contention for victory from FP1.

Asked how important the result was for team morale and for confirming the early-season credentials of the SF-24 challenger, Leclerc replied: “Oh, it’s extremely important.

“It’s been a long time since we have had the genuine pace to have Red Bull – I wouldn’t say under control, because we don’t know what was the real pace of Max today, but I will say that from FP1, we knew that pole position and the race win were possible because we had very good tyre degradation, very good pace. That is a very encouraging sign.”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

Ferrari has earned criticism in recent seasons for poor pitstop execution and questionable strategy calls, but Leclerc added that the team had maximised all areas of race craft at the start of 2024.

“However, if you look at the first three races, two out of the first three races they had the upper hand in the race. So, we still have a lot of work to do. But that’s exactly what we need to do as a team.

“Whenever we have the opportunity to actually win a race, we need to take it, and this weekend we did it, Carlos did it today. On my side, second with the fastest lap, so there are not any more points that we have got.

“Looking back at the first three races, there is not one race where we didn’t maximise the result. So, we need to do that until we get the car that is consistently better than the Red Bull, especially in the race.”

Race winner Sainz added: “From lap one, it felt like a race-winning car. And even if Red Bull were also quick and were on pole, that [1min15.915sec pole lap time] in quali wasn’t out of reach for us.”

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