Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc does not expect he will be able to repeat the victory he scored in last year’s Australian Grand Prix as F1 returns to Melbourne this weekend.
Leclerc dominated at the Albert Park circuit in 2022, taking pole position and leading every lap to eventually win by 20 seconds ahead of Sergio Perez after Max Verstappen retired in the second half of the race.
But after leaving Australia with a championship lead of 34 points, Leclerc only won once more through the 2022 season as Verstappen and Red Bull turned dominant over the rest of the year.
Returning to the Albert Park circuit, Leclerc admits Ferrari are not in a position to fight for the victory again following their performance over the opening two rounds of the season.
“For this year, we are not coming into this race in the same situation as we were last year, I think,” he said. “Clearly our performance is not as good as last year, but we are working massively to try and come back at the front.
“Last year’s are good memories – everybody was really happy. But again, we are fully motivated to be back in the front. We know where we need to work on. I don’t think there will be any miracles for this weekend.
“But after that we’ve got a three-week break, and we’ll try to use it in the best way possible in order to bring upgrades as quickly as possible on the car.”
Ferrari’s SF-23 performs strong in optimal conditions, Leclerc says, but cannot keep up with its rivals in race trim or when its tyres begin to fade over a longer run.
“We seem to be quite good in terms of qualifying whenever the peak grip is there,” Leclerc explained. “But then, whenever we lose a little bit of grip in the race, then it starts to be very, very difficult and we seem to lose quite a lot of performance, so on that we need to work.”
Asked if the SF-23 retained any of the qualities of its predecessor in which he won so dominantly last season, Leclerc replied “I don’t know.”
“In the end it’s a relative sport,” he continued. “So yes, it’s an evolution from last year’s car but clearly it’s not enough when you look at where Red Bull is, especially in race pace. So yeah, we’ve got lots of work to do.”
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and