Primary focus is quick 2024 machine – Leclerc

Charles Leclerc doesn’t appear overly anxious about the rumoured changing driver ranks within Ferrari.

Speculation from the Italian press is rife, wondering if Sainz’s recent resurgence, capped by consecutive pole positions, podiums, and a win in Singapore, makes him the new ‘number 1’.

However, Leclerc told Sky Italia that his main priority is ensuring Ferrari brings a fully competitive car into the 2024 season.

“First of all, the 2024 project is very different to the car we have this year,” he said before the Japanese GP.

“And what we’ve learnt shows us that we have made a good choice,” added Leclerc, in reference to Ferrari’s upward trend following recent updates designed for the 2023 car with 2024 in mind.

“The more we learn, the better it is for doing the last few details for next year’s car,” he said. “It’s super important and it was really good to understand that before the end of the season.”

Indeed, after claiming victory in Singapore, Sainz admitted that he “wouldn’t be surprised if Red Bull won the remaining races” of 2023. And Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes noted at Suzuka on Thursday: “I’ll be surprised if they’re not 30 seconds ahead at the finish on Sunday, as they were before.”

Meanwhile, Leclerc is uncertain if Ferrari’s gains this year will suffice for a genuine title challenge in 2024.

“I’m not confident we have found everything to close the gap to Red Bull,” he said, “but it’s a step in the right direction for sure.”

Team principal Frederic Vasseur concurs that Ferrari simply needs to continue making incremental progress.

“There is nothing magic in this business,” said the Frenchman. “You won’t find a bullet for four or five tenths. You have to do tons of small steps.”