Scuderia Ferrari Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc admitted that the Maranello team still does not have all of the answers to explain its lack of performance at the 2019 Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix. A strong showing during pre-season testing led to Ferrari being tipped as the early favourites by rivals Mercedes and Red Bull heading into the season, but the Italian squad’s perceived pace mysteriously disappeared in Melbourne.
Hampered by set-up related issues and a lack of confidence in the handling of Ferrari’s SF90, Sebastian Vettel and new teammate Charles Leclerc could only manage a distant fourth and fifth place in Australia, with race-winner Valtteri Bottas finishing nearly a minute up the road.
The lack of competitiveness led to an “very intense” post-race analysis following the opening round of the campaign as Vettel conceded there are no guarantees of a fix arriving in time for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix. Despite the setback, Leclerc insists Ferrari expects to bounce back in Sakhir.
“We expect to be more competitive, our package is strong and we have some answers to the lack of performance in Melbourne,” Charles said.
“I don’t think we have all of them but we definitely have some answers to it. Then we will only see here whether it was only track specific or if it is something else but I am pretty confident in the package we have. After the Barcelona testing we expected more but on the other hand I think there were a lot of positives to take,” he added. Melbourne is not such a representative track on car performance, even though that doesn’t mean we are as strong as we want to be. There is a lot of work to do and I am pretty confident in the team that we have done the right job in-between Melbourne and here to try and improve. Also, on my side I think I did quite a lot of mistakes in qualifying and during the race and I will try to not repeat these mistakes.” – he added.
Charles Leclerc said he is confident Ferrari does not have a fundamental issue with its 2019 car concept and believes improvements can be made: “I think the mentality is the right one and we need to keep this throughout the whole year, it is very positive,” Leclerc explained. – “We are aware there is a lot of work to do but I am pretty confident in the team that they will do everything to improve the car. I don’t think there’s any fundamental issues in the car concept, I’m pretty confident in that too it’s just about fine-tuning. As I said, I don’t think it’s the real performance of the car that we have shown in Australia and we are all quite confident that we can be better already here in Bahrain. The mentality is very good in the team and we need to keep this spirit, we are all working as a team and all working together. This is a good thing to see.”
Charles Leclerc was not left feeling frustrated after he was ordered to stay behind teammate Sebastian Vettel during the Australian Grand Prix: “There was no frustration on my side,” said Leclerc. “Obviously, it was the first race, but on the team side I don’t think there was anything to gain from me being fourth and Seb fifth, or me fifth and Seb fourth. It was exactly the same amount of points for the team, so it’s understandable that they didn’t want us to take the risk by fighting each other and risk losing more points.”