Charles Leclerc wants to “stop the talk” around Ferrari and says a number of recent rumors have been false after the team needed to take a power unit penalty at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
New team principal Frederic Vasseur named improving reliability as one of his pre-season priorities due to Ferrari’s struggles last year, but Leclerc needed to take a new energy store (ES) and control electronics (CE) after qualifying in Bahrain, then retired from the race. The DNF led to another CE being needed — exceeding the limit of two per year — and a grid penalty, and Italian media reports claim there is a crisis behind the scenes.
“It’s the beginning of the season… Of course, it’s not the ideal start that I wish I had at the beginning, starting in Bahrain, but what can I do about it?” Leclerc said. “Now we need to focus on what’s ahead, what we can do to be a better team, to be better. And yeah, this weekend, we obviously started on the back foot, but our target is to try and do something special. I like this challenge of starting a little bit more on the back foot and trying to do something special, and come back at the front as quickly as possible.
“It’s only the first race of the season and we’ve still got many races to go. We still need to be fighting like crazy to be back at the top and keep pushing. I still believe in it. Of course, we all still need to believe in it, because it’s only the first race.
“So it hasn’t gone as planned — and when it’s Ferrari that doesn’t go as well as it should, then there are lots of voices and all of these things around the team, but we need to be good at spending our energy right, inside the team, pushing in the same direction, making a difference and come back stronger. I feel that this has been the case in the last few weeks, so I’m really looking forward to being back on-track, stop the talk, and get back to driving.”
There were reports in Italy that senior management are uncertain about Ferrari’s future direction, including a claim that Leclerc had demanded assurances from Ferrari chairman John Elkann, but the Monegasque says they do no reflect the reality within the team.
“Honestly… I obviously saw these rumors, and then I went to Maranello, so I was at first, I was like, ‘I’m not sure how the team is going to react to it.’ But then we’ve had a meeting with the whole team, with all the Ferrari employees, and I was really surprised. Everybody is fully on it and fully positive still, which is great. We need to all push in the same direction, as I said, this is the most important to me.
“This (Elkann rumor) is absolutely untrue. Again, there have been loads of rumors around the team, which, for once, 90% of them were completely unfounded. So yeah, I don’t know where it is coming from, and to be honest, I don’t want to spend even any energy on trying to find where it’s coming from. We just need to be on it and focused our ourselves.”
Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz similarly came to the team’s defense, claiming the atmosphere internally is positive as Ferrari tries to make further progress.
“It is a lot better than what the news make it sound like,” Sainz said. “If you look back at this last weekend and how many rumors there have been around, it seems like the place is not in a great moment, but I can tell you it is so clear to us what we need to improve, how we need to do it, what are the short-, medium- and long-term targets, that I’m actually very surprised at how some people back at home have been trying to destabilize the team.
“Some call it a crisis but we’ve only done one race — it’s impossible to judge a team’s performance after just one race. And we are the first ones not happy with how this first race went, we are the most worried about it and we are the most affected by it and we’re going to try as much as possible to improve.
“I’m quite calm about it. I see people at the factory are committed, focused and with a very clear target in mind and I include myself in it.”