Charles Leclerc insisted a podium was on the cards at the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix, that is before his SF-23 decided to call it quits on lap 41 of the race.
What a difference a year makes in Formula 1. In 2022 Charles Leclerc lead Carlos Sainz in a Ferrari one-two at the last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix, while both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez retired their Red Bulls.
This year, Verstappen and Red Bull seem to be in imperious form and while Ferrari, at least in the hands of Leclerc, were able to stay in touch, reliability problems meant the Monegasque had to retire while Sainz finished fourth.
Speaking after the race to Sky Sports F1, Leclerc said: “We expected to be on the back foot this weekend, especially in the race to Red Bull – that team is on another planet right now.
“But that’s exactly why most weekends we need to bring maximum points possible home, and we didn’t manage to do so,” he lamented.
Speaking to the media; Leclerc added: “We definitely had the car to fight for the podium. I mean, honestly, the podium was there.
“We had a good gap behind, I was managing the pace, everything felt good, so it is a shame. Now I just hope we can look into it, understand what went wrong and don’t have this problem anymore…”
Notably, Leclerc did not go for a second run in Q3 of qualifying on Saturday to reserve one set of Soft tyres for the race, a strategy the Ferrari ace hailed when discussing his race.
He said: “I mean, the first stint, the choice that we have made was the right one in qualifying yesterday. Apart from that, not much.
A challenging Sunday for Carlos Sainz
Carlos Sainz had a troubled weekend in Bahrain, fourth and staying there at the end of the race; and reflected on his race in the team’s press release.
“It was a challenging Sunday,” he said. “We knew already from testing that it was going to be tough here in Bahrain and now we need to focus on improving for the upcoming races.
“Time to put our heads down, work hard and see how we can close the gap to the top. It’s only race one, so we’ll keep pushing no matter what,” Sainz insisted.
The was definitely not the way Frédéric Vasseur, Ferrari’s new Team Principal, would’ve wanted his first race with the Scuderia to pan out, the team still suffering from the tyre degradation that plagued them in 2022.
“Of course we are disappointed, how could we not be,” the Frenchman said. “We knew we’d have to deal with tyre degradation, but we had not expected reliability problems.
“It’s a shame for Charles, because in the first stint his pace was good and even with the heavy degradation on the Hard tyre, he could have brought home a third place, that would have been a good way to start the season.
“Carlos drove a solid race, running at a consistent pace and he gave it his all to finish fourth,” Vasseur said. “After this first race, we have a clear picture of the situation and we know what areas we must work on.
“We have to improve a lot in terms of tyre management and clearly, we have to ensure we have no more reliability problems like the one that affected us today,” Vasseur concluded.
Aside from the gap to Red Bull in terms of pace, Ferrari would be more concerned about Leclerc’s DNF, as reliability which cost them in 2022, was their focus over the winter break, something the team was adamant to have sorted.