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Leclerc: Ferrari has "best shot" so far in F1 2024 to beat Red Bull

Ferrari has its “best shot” so far this Formula 1 season of beating Red Bull, reckons Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Off the back of some impressive pace on the opening practice day for the Australian GP, Leclerc feels that his Ferrari squad is in pretty good shape with the performance of its SF-24.

And while he is under no illusions that Red Bull still holds an advantage at the front of the field, Leclerc believes that Ferrari can target a much better showing than it managed in the first two grands prix of the campaign.

“I will say that we are in a better position than the first two races,” said Leclerc, who topped second free practice around Albert Park.

“However Red Bull weren't pushing yet, so we've got to wait and see where their potential is at.

“I think they are still ahead, but we might have our best shot this weekend since the beginning of the season.”

Leclerc said that Ferrari had hit the ground running in Melbourne, with little to complain about – and there being potential to extract even more performance over the remainder of the weekend.

“It feels good for now,” he said. “We've had a positive day from the first laps in FP1 to the end of FP2, so that's a good start.

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“However, we need to keep working very hard because I'm sure that we'll see some surprises.

"There's no reason for us to be a bit in front compared to everyone else tomorrow as well, so there is still margin to improve in some things. But our race run was pretty good, which is encouraging, but let's see.”

Team-mate Carlos Sainz was returning to action in Australia following the appendicitis operation that put him out of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Although he admitted not being in peak shape, he still ended up third fastest in FP2 – just 0.430 seconds behind Leclerc.

Asked about how he felt after his first day back in the car, Sainz said: “Good, thank you. I feel okay.

“Obviously I feel tired after practice, not being 100% physically, but I felt like I had a good day. And if you would have told me a week ago that I could do the whole practice without issues then I would have been very happy. So, I'm very happy for that. 

"Obviously, I need a good night's sleep and good recovery for tomorrow. But yeah, I feel good.”

Sainz said he had not shown the maximum potential of himself or the car on Friday as he dialled himself back in, and feels there is more to come for qualifying. 

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“I took it step-by-step and getting up into a rhythm, not at the limit of the car and not at the limit of myself yet,” he explained.

“But I think with more laps and getting a bit more confident with how everything feels inside, I think I will be faster tomorrow and hopefully battle for that pole position, together with [Leclerc] against everyone else.

“I think it's going to be tight like we saw in FP1. I think in FP2 we did a good step, but I think quali tomorrow is going to be more like FP1.”

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