Charles Leclerc was pleased with a historic return to the podium at the Austrian GP – although conceded that Ferrari still have plenty of work ahead to catch Red Bull.
After qualifying second on Friday, the damp and cooler conditions saw the Scuderia star struggle during Sprint Saturday. Mercifully, though, the Red Bull Ring stayed dry for the Austrian GP, allowing Leclerc to take second place.
Ferrari have gradually seen improvement in recent races following a difficult run of results. After the SF-23 struggled massively with tyre wear at the Spanish Grand Prix, Canada and Austria have proven much more fruitful.
Leclerc and teammate Carlos Sainz finished fourth and fifth in Montreal, then second and sixth on Sunday.
The Ferrari ace reflected on his strong showing in Austria following Sunday’s race.
It feels good because yesterday [Saturday] was a very difficult day,” Leclerc told Sky Sports. “Obviously Friday we had a really strong day and today it was not an easy race. Tyre management was bigger than what we expected, especially in the first part of the race trying to keep the medium under control. It was very difficult, especially with the rears in that first stint.
“But all in all, we did good race management which helped us to get P2. It’s good to be back on the podium, still, a lot of work to do to get the Red Bulls. But we are doing some steps forwards.”
Charles Leclerc outlines Scuderia’s next need
At previous rounds in 2023, Ferrari’s car has shown a tendency to eat through its tyres. The sliding, unsettled nature of the SF-23 can make it a handful for Sainz and Leclerc – whilst also aggravating tyre degradation.
However, Charles Leclerc believes that the Scuderia have made strides in this area. Ferrari, therefore, needs to focus on closing the performance gap to Red Bull.
“There are some improvements [with tyre degradation], it felt a little bit better. Then, overall, I think we are lacking pace. If you look at the beginning of the stint to the end of the stint, it’s not like there’s a big difference. It is just that our relative pace is slower than Red Bull at the moment.
“Today I don’t think tyre management was our biggest issue – it was just that we were slower than Red Bull.”
Tifosi fans left the Austrian GP delighted that Ferrari beat even one Red Bull. Sergio Perez came home third, a handful of seconds adrift from Leclerc. The Monegasque driver credited Carlos Sainz’s valiant defence on Perez for allowing him to beat the No.11 RBR car.
“Yeah, Carlos did a great job for that. I was aware that Checo was coming, and you know how quickly he would pass Carlos. So, I was trying to manage those hards, to push whenever he was getting in front of Carlos. But Carlos made my life a bit easier by doing a great defence.”
The Austrian GP marked only the second podium of the season for Ferrari. But, much more importantly, it marked an unbelievable milestone for the team.
Ferrari bring up 800 podium finishes at the Austrian GP
F1’s most historic outfit became the first team to reach 800 podium finishes in the sport’s history. With this, they also extend their lead at the top of the all-time list – although the Scuderia do have quite a margin.
With them leading on 800, McLaren is the next manufacturer, boasting 494 top 3 finishes. Well adrift of them, in third, is Williams with 313.
Finally, rounding out the top 5 are Mercedes (285 podiums) and Red Bull (248). These two manufacturers may have dominated the past two decades, but even they cannot hold a candle to the Prancing Horse.
Following Austria, Ferrari and the rest of the field have a short turnaround for the British GP this weekend.
Featured image credit: Getty