Feb.22 (GMM) Charles Leclerc has played down Ferrari’s new status as the 2019 favourite by saying teams ‘bluff’ in winter testing.
After the first test in Barcelona, both Mercedes and Red Bull are saying the Maranello team has a clear advantage with its new car.
What Leclerc will admit to is how easily he has adapted to the 2019 Ferrari.
“It is a very easy car to drive, which makes it easier for me as a driver,” he smiled.
However, the 21-year-old said it is too early to say that Ferrari’s rivals are off the pace.
“In the tests there is always bluffing, so we should not read too much into the times,” Leclerc insisted.
“I’m sure Mercedes has not revealed all of its cards, and neither have we. We know we have a strong car, but we do not know how good our opponents are.”
As for himself, Leclerc moved to ease the huge pressure on his shoulders, having just taken over from Ferrari veteran and former champion Kimi Raikkonen.
Many, including Max Verstappen, think the former Sauber driver will immediately challenge Sebastian Vettel.
“I think so, because he is very fast and intelligent,” Verstappen said.
“Yes he lacks some experience to Vettel, maybe over the race distance. But he will be faster than Kimi Raikkonen anyway,” he claimed.
Leclerc said in Barcelona that “people should not forget that this is only my second season”.
“I need time to grow into this role,” said the Monaco-born driver.
“I’m not coming to Australia to win the first race. My aim is to do a good job,” Leclerc added.
As for how he is dealing with the huge pressure, he answered: “Ferrari is the biggest team in the world, a legend. But you do not think about that when you’re driving.”
But even Lewis Hamilton says he can imagine Leclerc creating a situation at Ferrari similar to his own McLaren debut in 2007, when he clashed with Fernando Alonso.
Leclerc said: “I will try to start the season in good shape, and if Mattia (Binotto) has a problem with two fast drivers, it means that I am doing my job well.”