Ferrari new boy Charles Leclerc isn’t getting carried away by the team’s apparent initial superiority over rival teams Mercedes and Red Bull in pre-season testing.
Leclerc and his team mate Sebastian Vettel enjoyed a sizeable performance advantage over the rest of the field in the first two days at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
But Leclerc said that things were unlikely to be as they appeared, and that the other teams were probably holding back and simply not showing their full hand at this early juncture.
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“The performance has no sense for now, because it remains testing,” the Monegasque driver stated. “They are probably not pushing, and we are not either.
“We don’t know how much the others are sandbagging, so we’ll see at the first race.”
Leclerc said that his team was currently focussed on running its own program and not getting carried away by comparisons to what others are doing. “That’s what we are doing, so we are happy,” he said.
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This will be the former GP3 and Formula 2 champion’s first season at Maranello after spending his maiden season in F1 last year with Sauber. He insists that he’s not feeling any undue pressure as a result of his rapid promotion to the front of the grid.
“I’m focusing mainly on myself, trying to do the best job possible in the car and out of the car,” he said. “I’m pretty sure that the results will come at one point.
“I just need to focus fully on myself. I don’t want to put in my head: ‘Okay, I need to win the first race’. This is not what is in my head at the moment.”
Over at Mercedes, reigning champion Lewis Hamilton also hopes that Leclerc isn’t put under too much pressure to succeed too soon.
“It would be unfair to put that kind of expectation on his shoulders,” Hamilton said when asked if he expected the 21-year-old to be one of the main challengers for his title in 2019.
“It’s his second year. He’s young, he’s going to make mistakes. He’s obviously very quick, very talented. And hopefully – most likely – he’s going to surprise many, many people.”
But for the time being at least, Hamilton expected Vettel’s experience to come out on top at Ferrari this year.
“Sebastian is a multiple world champion and Charles has lots of experiences to go through,” he said. “There’s no substitute for experience.
“The great thing with a youngster is you’re energised beyond belief and determined,” Hamilton added. “It will be interesting to see how those two parallels work together.”
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