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Leclerc: Initial feeling of Ferrari SF-24 "healthier" compared to 2023 F1 car

Charles Leclerc reckons Ferrari's 2024 Formula 1 car "feels healthier" compared to last year's machinery in his initial impressions of shaking down the SF-24.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Ferrari

Following Ferrari's Tuesday launch, the Monegasque joined team-mate Carlos Sainz in giving the new car its first laps around Ferrari's Fiorano test track, albeit only for a handful of laps.
Charles Leclerc explained at the launch that his work on the simulator with the new car suggested that the team had made a "significant step forward", but it was too early to say if the real car correlated perfectly with that assessment.
In comparing his feelings of the car to last year's SF-23 during its shakedown, the five-time grand prix winner revealed that the SF-24 felt more easy to drive around Ferrari's private circuit.
He warned however that this did not necessarily reflect the overall performance, stating that he had only done "three laps with cameras stuck all around the car and not really pushing to the limit".
"I remember that after the first lap last year, or if it wasn't the first lap, it was the first three, four laps, I wasn't really happy with the behaviour of the car," Leclerc explained. 
"The car was very, very difficult to drive. This year, the car feels healthier and in a better place. 
"On the other hand, I want to push on the point that that doesn't mean anything on the competitiveness of the car – because if other teams have done a bigger step forward in terms of lap time gains, then it can be an easier car to drive but if it's not fast enough, it won't be fast enough on track.
"So in terms of competitiveness, it's very difficult. In terms of actual feeling of the very first laps, I would say I've had a better feeling this year than I did last year."
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Ferrari

Leclerc added that it may take until after the Australian Grand Prix in March for Ferrari to truly understand where it stacks up in the 2024 pecking order, owing to the uniqueness of the Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Melbourne circuits.
He linked this to his experiences last season, in which he cited that the SF-23's performance was affected by external conditions over a race distance – which he noted last year was masked in qualifying by fresh, softer-compound tyres.
"Looking back at the previous year, I think you always need to wait two or three races to understand how strong of a package you have on different tracks, because sometimes you can have a very strong package on one track and then you get to another one and you are struggling much more," he said.
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"So I think we will always have to wait two or three races to see our car in different conditions, different winds, different temperatures, different track layouts before actually drawing conclusions in what can be achieved and what cannot be achieved that season."
"[Last year] we had a problem of balance, as I was saying, which was mostly linked to the outside conditions, which is wind sensitivity especially, but also temperature, ambient temperature or track temperature. And this was affecting probably more the race pace than the quali pace. 
"And in that, as drivers, we have an important feedback to give to the team as these are things that are a bit more difficult to define on data."

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