In FP1, Leclerc was only half a second slower than session leader Valtteri Bottas and 0.052s slower than fourth-place Lando Norris, before posting a time decent enough for P3, 0.026s slower than Bottas and 0.165s slower than Lewis Hamilton.
After the session, Leclerc says, “It was a very good day, we had a good day, a clean day, I changed a little bit my approach compared to Portimao – taking it a lot more step-by-step – and I’m just driving a lot better and in a better place with the car, so hopefully we can keep on building on that strong first day for tomorrow, as tomorrow will be important obviously, with qualifying, especially on this track."
He adds, “So I think we know where to improve, now let’s see if we make a good job by just getting better where we are struggling at,”
On Thursday, Leclerc clarified that his shift in strategy was prompted by tyre issues in Portimao, which saw him finish sixth in the previous round while teammate Carlos Sainz finished 11th. Due to neither Ferrari's performance on medium tyres last time out, the Scuderia spent a significant portion of FP1 on those troublesome compounds and performed significantly better.
Ferrari are a force to be reckoned with, sitting just 11 points behind McLaren in the standings – with Hamilton calling their success “amazing” after FP2 – but where does Leclerc see the Scuderia ending this weekend?
He further adds, “Well I think if we can be right behind the Mercedes and Red Bull, that’s the best we can hope for right now."
He concludes, “If there’s good surprises, even more than that, it will be welcome, but I think the objective should be to be just behind them,”