At the upcoming Japanese Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc, the superstar driver for Ferrari, acknowledged a tough road ahead. Securing fourth on the grid, he admitted, "I put everything together,” emphasizing that it was the best outcome he and Ferrari could achieve during the qualifying sessions.
A Departure from Recent Triumphs
Ferrari, arriving at the iconic Suzuka Circuit, had been on a streak, celebrating two consecutive pole positions. These included a podium finish in Italy and an impressive race win in Singapore.
However, these were victories brought home by Carlos Sainz, Leclerc's teammate. The team's struggle to keep pace with the likes of Red Bull and McLaren was evident this time. Leclerc candidly expressed his views about the weekend's performance, stating, “I did honestly the best lap of the weekend in Q3, but it wasn’t enough”.
He further highlighted the superiority of the Red Bulls, especially noting the performances of Max Verstappen and Sergio "Checo" Perez. As for the McLarens, he noted their similar race pace and said, “If we don’t overtake them at the start, it’s going to be difficult to pass them on track”.
Sainz's Set-Up Struggles
Carlos Sainz, who has been Ferrari's recent flag bearer with his commendable wins, showed concern about the current race's set-up. He recollected the recent highs of claiming pole at Monza and Marina Bay and discussed the challenges he faced this weekend.
“We’ve been trying a lot of things," Sainz said, hoping to find a 'sweet spot' for the track. "In the end, we probably ended up getting a bit lost and having to come back to a more basic set-up”. Sainz further mentioned how the weekend had been uncomfortable for him, with many changes being tested.
He remained grounded, however, emphasizing that even a better qualifying session wouldn't have drastically changed their grid position. Reiterating the overall sentiment, Sainz added his perspective on the competition, saying, “Red Bull are in a different league, McLaren honestly I have a feeling are a step quicker than us this weekend”. He also hinted at a potentially close battle with Mercedes and Aston Martin.