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Leclerc: Lowly position on F1 test day one reflects Ferrari approach

Charles Leclerc says the Ferrari Formula 1 team has adjusted its approach to pre-season testing after finishing the opening day of 2020 running at Barcelona only 11th fastest

Leclerc, who received a call from Ferrari at 6.45am to replace his unwell team-mate Sebastian Vettel for the opening day of the test, completed 131 laps on the day but was over a second down on Mercedes pacesetter Lewis Hamilton - though he did set his best time on a harder tyre than the reigning champion.

This was in stark contrast to the first day of testing last year, when Vettel set the pace, before Leclerc himself went quickest on day two.

But Ferrari's strong showing at Barcelona last year did not translate to the start of the season that had been expected, and Leclerc admitted the team is consciously holding off on performance work this time.

"We changed a little bit our approach compared to last year," Leclerc said.

"Last year testing was great but the first race was a bit less great.

"I think we've learned a few things on this, and this year we decided to focus more on ourselves, trying to learn the car as much as possible in these first few days, and then focus on performance a bit later on.

"We'll see if that pays off."

Leclerc added that Wednesday's work was "more about correlating the numbers from the factory and the track", which means it mostly benefits engineers and that the drivers "don't learn much" about how competitive Ferrari is.

"Still, driving a new car, I still try to push at the limit of the car," he continued.

"We haven't pushed the car, but I'm pushing myself to try and know this car better.

"So, the more laps that we do with it, the more confident I'll arrive in Melbourne, so on that side, on the driving side, I've learned a lot, and then the different tests we've performed, I think they've been very positive."

Leclerc suggested Ferrari is unlikely to copy Mercedes' 2019 tactic and bring a considerably different car to the second week of testing.

Asked whether the SF1000 has accomplished team principal Mattia Binotto's stated aim of prioritising downforce compared to its predecessor, Leclerc said: "It's quite difficult to see that at the moment.

"Of course I feel quite quick in the corners, but it's always difficult to compare one year to the other.

"I think the good benchmark will be at the first race when the tyres will be in the right window.

"It's still very cold now, and the downforce has quite a big effect on tyres.

"So it's all about having the aero that puts the tyres in the right window. And for now we can't really know, so we just focus on ourselves."

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