Formula 1 returns to Imola with Ferrari to command both world classifications. Charles Leclerc currently leads the Drivers’ World Championship, occupying a position that leads the Cavallino standard bearer to be the most awaited by the Ferrari audience expected in the Santerno stands. The Monegasque met the journalists present on the circuit, talking about his mood on the eve of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, also focusing on the new environment inside the Scuderia which contributed to the rediscovered competitiveness of the Red.
“I’m very excited“commented Leclerc. “In the first three races things went the right way for us. It seems we have a very competitive car this year and now being in this position here, at Ferrari, where we have had enormous support over the past few years, is special. But I think the most important thing for us is not wanting to overdo it, an easy risk when there is excitement and things are going well. We have to stay focused on our work ”. Despite the leadership of the drivers’ classification, the Monegasque does not intend to adopt a more cautious approach than usual at Imola: “I don’t think about first place in the league now. Probably in a few races if I am in the same position I will start thinking about the championship, but that’s not the case now ”. When asked about how he manages to manage the pressure of the moment, number 16 replied as follows: “I can stay calm and optimistic by focusing solely on work. Knowing that I have done everything possible with the team to be 200% ready for the race reassures me ”.
Leclerc subsequently reviewed the changes within the team that contributed to making Ferrari a methodologically different team from that of the last decade: “Ferrari’s place is definitely at the top. Both the Scuderia and I want to be at the top. It was sad to see Ferrari struggling over the past two years, but we have worked hard. I think the last two years have not been easy for anyone on the team, but they helped us change our way of working and made us a more prepared team. I feel much more ready now than I was two years ago. As a team we are also much better prepared to be in this position. This also gives me confidence for development and for the rest of the season ”.
Focusing on the upcoming Imola event, Leclerc confirmed that the Romagna track should better adapt to the characteristics of the F1-75 than the last track, but the Monegasque does not rule out twists, some of which could come from the rain that has already fallen on the racetrack in the Thursday: “I think we have a fairly competitive car overall, but looking at the first few races we expected to be slower than we actually were. In Imola the track should adapt slightly better to our car, but I hope that there will be no surprises and that on the contrary we will not be slower than we anticipate. However, the fight is so close that it is difficult to say which team will win. There will also be rain, which we do not yet know with these cars and it is a condition in which we have struggled in the past. It will be very important tomorrow to adapt immediately to these conditions and to be in the optimal window right from the start ”. Ferrari in particular showed better speed on the straight compared to Red Bull, which conditioned the competitiveness of the Red in some of the races so far disputed: “It is something we are looking at and we cannot underestimate it. It was particularly evident in Jeddah, while in Australia it was less obvious, although still present. I think that on some tracks we could pay the price of having a lower speed on the straight and we will probably adapt to those circuits in the future ”.
The Formula 1 paddock is convinced that Red Bull and Mercedes will be able to reach the level of Ferrari, but Leclerc said the Scuderia is focused only on itself. The ability to focus attention on internal weaknesses is one of the qualities matured in the last two years: “I don’t want to look too much at others. The approach we’ve taken over the past couple of years has been to not look at the competition, because after stepping back in 2020, we wanted to go back to something else. By focusing on ourselves, however, we found much more performance than looking at others and I think this is the approach I want to keep this year: don’t focus too much on what Mercedes and Red Bull are doing, but focus on ourselves and identify our weaknesses. I think this particular aspect has been our strength over the past two years: looking at our weaknesses, working on them and fixing them. I am quite convinced that if we can do this, the results will come ”. Among the weaknesses identified and corrected, there is also the rediscovered correlation between the data of the track and the simulator, a useful tool also for planning the development path: “The guys in the simulator did a great job, because the correlation was very good and this also helps us to have support for the development of the car”.
Among the issues addressed by Charles, the recent announcement of the renewal of Carlos Sainz’s contract until 2024 could not be missing: “I’m very happy. Obviously Carlos is a really good guy, as well as a good driver. We have a great relationship, but the most important thing I think is that we give the same indications to the team. We want the same things from the car and I think this is extremely important for the future of the team, which is to push both of us in the same direction. This is what has already happened in the last year and a half and we are already seeing the benefits. Having Carlos in the team in the next two years is great ”. The possibility for the team to be able to count on the current pair of drivers for the next three years proves to be particularly important, for reasons that go beyond the pure driving skills of Charles and Carlos: “Stability is very important. I know this because I signed a long contract with Ferrari and knowing that I am in the same place for many years is good for your confidence, for feeling well psychologically and also allows you to work over the long term, of which we have already seen the benefits. I think we are a very strong line-up, we push every race, which is great for both the team and us ”.
In closing, the horse rider commented on his recent experience at Fiorano at the wheel of the Ferrari 312 T4 that belonged to Gilles Villeneuve: “It was crazy, an incredible experience. The cars were so different and from the cockpit you can feel how high the level of safety we have now is. To take those cars to the limit with so little protection you had to be really strong psychologically, but it was good, as well as fun ”.