Charles Leclerc says it’s right that Ferrari doesn’t back him over Carlos Sainz at the start of the 2023 season and wants the team to look at the year as a whole rather than worry too much about the opening races.
A strong start to last year put Leclerc in title contention but his challenge faded and he only just beat Sergio Perez to second place in the drivers’ championship. After new team principal Fred Vasseur made clear he’d have no lead driver at Ferrari from the start of this season, Leclerc says it’s the right approach that both drivers also need.
“No I completely agree with this philosophy, you cannot start a year like this,” Leclerc said. “I think it’s important for Carlos and I to be fully motivated to do the best job possible in the first part of the season, to push each other to perform the best.
“Then if at one point in the championship a driver is fully in the fight for winning that championship then I’m sure the team will do everything possible for the driver that fighting for the championship to be in the best possible conditions. For this we’ll talk later obviously, but at the beginning of the season I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Fresh from his first run in the 2023 car as Ferrari launched its SF-23 at Maranello on Tuesday, Leclerc also says the team needs to not get too caught up in how the opening rounds play out – good or bad – after such a promising start to last season.
“It’s very difficult to predict. I’m sure we did a good job with the car but I really don’t know where Red Bull is at and I don’t know where Mercedes is at to be honest – I expect Mercedes to be strong too.
“One thing for sure is that, especially after a year like last year, wherever we are in the first race doesn’t mean it’s finished and that goes both in ways – if we are winning the first race that doesn’t mean it will be the same until the end of the season and vice versa if we have a bad first race then we should definitely keep pushing because everything is possible. I am sure we will have a competitive car but let’s wait and see how the other teams did.
“I think comparisons always exist and we need to live with them, but I don’t think it will affect us. What I think from the first few races is difficult to know for now.
“For sure I will know after the first days of testing in Bahrain when we understand a little bit of our weaknesses and where we are compared to the others, even thought during testing it’s always very difficult to have a clear read on where we are, but we will have a bit more of a clear mind.”