Reliable Ferrari offers smoothest F1 start for Leclerc

Charles Leclerc during F1 testing in Bahrain

Six solid days of running for Ferrari during pre-season testing left Charles Leclerc to describe it as the smoothest start to a year he’s had in Formula 1.

Ferrari recorded the most mileage of any of the 10 teams across testing in Spain and Bahrain, with Leclerc and team-mate Carlos Sainz featuring towards the top of the timesheets.

But while all preach caution when it comes to reading into the lap times, there is no doubt Ferrari was among one of the strongest performers throughout.

“We’ve done many laps, no big issues,” Leclerc said.

“We’ve done all the tests that we wanted to do, which is very important, but then for the pace, we have no idea.

“I mean, it doesn’t really mean anything for now, but it’s a positive test until now for us.”

Max Verstappen ended up fastest at the end of pre-season testing last week in Bahrain, though the Red Bull driver admitted he was not going “full beans”.

It’s a view shared by Leclerc, who suggests there’s still more to come from the Ferrari F1-75 and himself too as he learns the nuances of his new machine.

“We’re definitely getting there,” he said.

“The fact that the car is reliable and that we can do many, many laps helps us also as drivers to try and test different driving styles.

“I think it will take a bit more time before we use the 100 percent of this car, that is quite a different driving style and it takes a bit of time to get used to it.”

The Monegasque driver, twice a winner in Formula 1, was willing to concede that preparations have at least gone well.

“I’d say definitely one of the smoothest preparations I’ve had for a season,” he said.

“Again, no major issues and especially on such a new project, you always expect to find some barriers on the way and, for now, apart from porpoising, that is still kind of an issue in some conditions, it’s been quite smooth and we managed to just keep improving.

“Everyone seems to be quite close at some point or another, so it’s very difficult to know how much they have in margin” he warned.

“We know how much margin we have, but we have no idea how much they hide their games.

“And that’s why I think we need to really stay cautious because it’s nice to be in the front but it doesn’t mean anything for now.”

Ferrari ended last year’s season third in the constructors’ championship, with Sainz an almost forgotten third at the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Leclerc logged two pole positions during 2021, at Monaco and Azerbaijan, and finished a season-high second at the British Grand Prix, his only podium of the year.

The 2022 Formula 1 season begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend, opening practice beginning on Friday at 23:00 AEDT.

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