Leclerc spent more time than ever at Ferrari in F1 2021 build-up

Charles Leclerc says he spent more time than ever with Ferrari in his preparations for the new Formula 1 season after completely recovering from COVID-19.

Leclerc spent more time than ever at Ferrari in F1 2021 build-up

Leclerc revealed in January that he had tested positive for COVID-19 following a trip to Dubai, but was able to link back up with Ferrari at the end of the month to complete some testing in a 2018-spec car.

The Monegasque driver is entering his third season with Ferrari after leading its campaign in 2020, scoring two podium finishes and close to triple the points of team-mate Sebastian Vettel.

But Leclerc felt he still had still plenty of room for improvement heading into this year, and that he had spent a sizeable amount of time with Ferrari at its Maranello base during the off-season to work on those areas.

“I think I’ve never been as in Ferrari as much as this season before the actual start of the season,” Leclerc said.

“We’ve also been doing quite a bit of tests with the old car, so I feel very ready. I’ve been working in a similar way as I’ve done in the past, trying to understand what were my weaknesses last year.

“I still believe that tyre management is something I shall push. I’ve improved massively last year, and I hope that will be another step this year.

“That’s what I’ve done basically, trying to look at past races, trying to understand what could we have done better as a team, as myself, in the car, and yeah, try to improve on [tyre management] especially.”

Charles Leclerc at Fiorano

Charles Leclerc at Fiorano

As well as running in the 2018 SF71H at Fiorano in January, Leclerc also took part in a Pirelli tyre test last month using a 2019 mule car to help develop the new 18-inch rubber for 2022.

He will get a first extended run in Ferrari’s new car, the SF21, at the start of pre-season testing in Bahrain later this week, two weeks before the start of the new season.

Leclerc is one of six F1 drivers to have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. The severity of the virus has differed between the group, with some being harder hit than others.

Lance Stroll said last week that he “underestimated” the impact COVID-19 had on his season last year after becoming ill ahead of the Eifel Grand Prix, and that it took time to get completely over it.

But Leclerc was confident he had fully recovered from the virus, having undergone specific tests to ensure his fitness was at its regular levels ahead of the new season.

“I’ve recovered completely,” Leclerc said. “It didn’t hit me that bad, luckily, so I feel completely fine.

“I’ve done some physical tests just after COVID to be sure that everything came back to normal, and it’s the case. “So all good on that.”

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