After finishing sixth at the Russian Grand Prix, Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc thinks that his team has found the right direction following three very difficult race weekends.
Scuderia Ferrari started the coronavirus-delayed season in a shocking position with its 2020 F1 car that has proved to produce too much drag and feature an underpowered engine. The Italians’ season turned into a nightmare at the Belgian Grand Prix where they slipped even further down the order, scoring no points at the track where they dominated just twelve months ago. The issues continued on home soil at the Italian Grand Prix where both Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel failed to see the chequered flag.
The team’s 1000th race at the Tuscan Grand Prix turned into another difficult weekend with Ferrari only scoring five points in total. For the Russian Grand Prix, Ferrari finally brought a few updates, including a new rear wing. Although the new parts were not meant to deliver a huge lift in performance, but they clearly helped the team at Sochi.
Leclerc commented on his car’s better form in Russia: “We brought some small upgrades for this weekend, but I don’t think it’s the explanation of all the performance jump we have done. But it has definitely gone in the right direction and we should have a bigger upgrade for the next Grand Prix. We are working in the right direction so it should be good.”
The 22-year-old Monegasque was delighted with the race pace of the SF1000 after three races where the team suffered high degradation in the races.
"It was tricky at the beginning, as I had a pretty poor start and lost a few positions by turn one, but then I regained them immediately and from then on the performance was very good. Our pace was not too bad at all today. We were quite strong in our first stint on Medium tyres and we managed to go long on them also because I paid particular attention to tyre management today, after we had seen a lot of degradation on Friday in our race simulation. I worked on it and I am glad it worked out well.
We maximized what we had today and that’s the most important thing. It’s a positive weekend for us and this also helps us mentally."
Vettel blamed the traffic for his result, indicating that his tyres suffered in the dirty air which meant he could not make use of his car’s real potential.
"It was a bit of a boring race, as we didn’t have many options in terms of strategy. My start, from the dirty side of the track, was not ideal and so I couldn't benefit from other people’s crashes and collisions. After the Safety Car period I was a bit stuck and I struggled to stay close to the cars in front of me.
„In the middle part of the race the car was quicker than yesterday in quali but I struggled to make the tyres last, partly because following other cars did not help. I did the maximum today but I was just not quick enough."
Ferrari’s Managing Director and Team Principal Mattia Binotto claimed that the Russian Grand Prix „was a step forward, at least compared to recent races, both in terms of the result and our performance level. Charles produced a solid drive to sixth, getting the most out of the package. He was aggressive after the start and then drove a very mature race for someone who is not yet 23.”
The Swiss-Italian confirmed that Ferrari will continue its development work, trying to introduce further small bits at the Nürburgring in two weeks’ time.
„Sebastian was unable to get into the points, stuck in traffic in the key moments after the start. We brought a few small aero updates to Sochi: nothing radical in terms of performance but a step in the right direction for the development of the car. In a season when the gaps in the mid-field are very close, it doesn’t take much to move up the order. We must continue moving forward like this, starting with the next round in a fortnight at the Nürburgring".