Leclerc hails ‘special’ new Ferrari after first laps

Charles Leclerc on track in the SF-23

Charles Leclerc on track in the SF-23

Charles Leclerc declared Ferrari’s new SF-23 as “special” as the Scuderia delivered a launch to make the rest of F1 sit up and take notice.

In front of a 500-strong grandstand of Tifosi at its Fiorano test track, Leclerc rolled out Ferrari’s latest challenger and conducted a couple of laps before handing over the wheel to team-mate Carlos Sainz.

This was more than just pulling the cover off a car or sending out a series of renders of a livery as Leclerc did not hold too much back with the SF-23.

“It felt good,” said Leclerc after returning to the garage.

“The first kilometres of this new project, after doing so many kilometres on the simulator, it feels special.

“Everything went smoothly. Obviously, with two laps it’s difficult to go into details but I already gave my feedback to the engineers once I was in the car to get the first feeling

“The car was running well – smooth – so everything went really well.”

The weather was kind to Ferrari as the launch was conducted under bright blue skies.

The Tifosi was on hand to create a memorable atmosphere after the previous two launches were conducted behind closed doors due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Addressing the fans, Leclerc added: “It’s amazing to have a grandstand with all the Tifosi here, and there were loads of Tifosi there on the bridge, so very special to feel the support on a day like this.

“I don’t think it happens to any other team, that’s why Ferrari is so special, and it’s thanks to all the Tifosi around the world who are helping us, pushing us, in the good moments but especially in the bad moments too.

“I really hope this season will be an amazing one.”

Leclerc sets Ferrari title target

Ferrari, Leclerc and Sainz now have to back up their punchy launch with a season to match on track following the disappointment of 2022.

After dominating the early races, with Leclerc scoring two wins and a second place in the opening three races to suggest a title was on the cards, what followed was misery for the Monégasque and the Scuderia.

Unreliability, strategic mistakes, and personal errors from Leclerc cost both him and Ferrari dear as he finished a distant runner-up to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the drivers’ standings.

Looking ahead to the new season, Leclerc said: “I can’t wait. 2022 was a good step forward compared to the two difficult years of 2020 and 2021.

“We finished second in the constructors’ championship and the drivers’ championship, so I’m really looking forward to this new car.

“We’ve done a great job working it and trying to address the weaknesses that there were on this car, so hopefully it will be better.

“But the goal is to win clearly. The feeling of winning is what motivates me, motivates all the team, too.

“So I’m really looking forward to getting back in the car and trying to win that championship.”

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