Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc topped the timing screens at the lunch break on the third and penultimate day of the final Formula 1 preseason test at Circuit de Catalunya and told reporters that he was not even going flat out.
The Monaco Kid left it to the final five minutes left in the morning session with the best time of 1:16.231. which was over half a second faster than the next best and a whopping 1.8 seconds faster Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes who were content to rack up the mileage at race pace and on the second hardest C2 Pirelli compound.
Leclerc, who set his time using the softest C5 compound tyre told reporters during a midday debrief in Barcelona, “Obviously, like every team we are not flat out. There is still some margin and there is a bit in myself. I am still learning.”
The SF90 was bulletproof during the first test, but on Tuesday when it fired up again there was a cooling issue which cost the team and Leclerc valuable track time, and yesterday it got worse when Sebastian Vettel crashed into the wall.
The car needed an extensive rebuild and was only out on track again, with Leclerc on duty, late in the afternoon for a systems check before the flag waved to end the day’s proceedings.
“I get more comfortable with the car lap after lap,” continued Leclerc. “And also the car itself. So it is looking good for now. The car feels comfortable, from day one the balance has been pretty good, and it hasn’t changed today.”
“It’s a positive day, especially after the lack of running yesterday, a good morning for us and it is good for us to be on top but that does not mean anything.”
As for the pecking order after seven days in Spain, the 21-year-old said, “It is difficult to say again, it’s testing. We are looking strong at the moment, but whether [Mercedes] are sandbagging more or less, we don’t know and we will only know in qualifying.”
Leclerc referencing qualifying for the season opener at Albert Park in Melbourne next month, when all the teams will have it fully dialled up with ‘Party Mode’ loaded and the true pecking order will be laid bare.
“For now, we are pretty happy with the job we are doing,” concluded Leclerc who, on 17 March at the Australian Grand Prix, will become the youngest driver to race in F1 for Ferrari since Ricardo Rodriguez did so at the 1961 Italian Grand Prix.