Charles Leclerc declared his love for the new Ferrari SF-23 Formula 1 car after giving it a Valentine’s Day debut at the Italian team’s Fiorano track in front of hundreds of passionate fans on Tuesday.
The Monegasque beat Spanish teammate Carlos Sainz in a coin flip, conducted by new team principal Fred Vasseur, for the honour of driving the red and black car for its first laps on a sunny morning.
“It feels good,” said Leclerc after two laps. “It feels special. Everything went smoothly. Obviously with two laps its difficult to go into details but I already gave my feedback once I was in the car to the engineers.
“The car was running well, smooth. Everything went really well,” added the 2022 championship runner-up, who waved to the cheering fans filling a grandstand and watching from a nearby road bridge.
Sainz was given three laps in the car as compensation for having to wait for his turn, turning down a request over the radio from Leclerc to be allowed one more lap before handing over.
Sainz: It’s my turn!
“It’s my turn, it’s my turn,” replied the Spaniard, eager to get behind the wheel. “You are P1 for the moment.”
Ferrari finished runners-up to Red Bull last season after a campaign punctuated by strategy mistakes, driver errors and a lack of reliability. Winning a first title since the 2008 Constructors’ Championship is again the target.
Vasseur, who joined in January as replacement for the departed Mattia Binotto, said he was confident the team had done a good job on the engine and reliability.
“I think we are in a good place,” said the Frenchman.