Leclerc still wary of Red Bull Australia threat despite practice pace

Charles Leclerc remains wary of the threat posed by Red Bull at the Australian Grand Prix – but declared it Ferrari’s “best shot” of challenging the world champions.

Leclerc topped the second practice session with a 1:17.722 lap, 0.381s clear of Max Verstappen in the lead Red Bull, albeit after the defending champion missed the first 20 minutes of the session owing to a floor change following damage sustained in FP1.

The delay meant Verstappen was unable to complete a proper long run as would ordinarily have taken place. Leclerc’s medium tyre run, meanwhile, included eye-catching laps in the low 1:22, high 1:23 region, as opposed to the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez managing times in the low 1:23, high 1:24s.

Ferrari has so far delivered the better qualifying package in 2024, with Leclerc setting a faster time in Q2 in Bahrain than Verstappen’s eventual pole lap.

The Monégasque, who last converted pole position into a win at Albert Park in 2022, believes the fight is on.

“It feels good for now, we’ve had a positive day, from the first laps in FP1 to the end of FP2, so it is a good start,” said Leclerc.

“However, we need to keep working very hard because I am sure that we’ll see some surprises, and there is no reason for us not to be in front compared to everyone [in qualifying].

“Our race run was pretty good, which was encouraging.

“I will say that we are in a better position [to fight Red Bull] than in the first two races, however, Red Bull was not pushing, so we’ve got to wait and see where its potential is at, but I think they are still ahead.

“We have our best shot this weekend from the beginning of the season.

“It is very difficult to compare because some drivers had a lot of traffic [on the race runs], and we had relatively clean laps, but it looked quite good.”


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