Ferrari play down pace despite Leclerc topping times
The practice timesheets made very good reading for Ferrari and their fans on Friday, with Charles Leclerc more than three tenths of a second clear of the field as he set the pace at a scorching Spielberg...
However, the times don’t tell the full story, with Mercedes failing to get a soft tyre low-fuel lap to compare directly with Leclerc's after Valtteri Bottas crashed, which in turn forced Lewis Hamilton in the other Silver Arrow to abort his run.
Leclerc’s team mate Sebastian Vettel also missed out after spinning and damaging his set of softs, while Max Verstappen had a crash in his Red Bull, robbing him too of a soft tyre, low-fuel run.
That perhaps explains Leclerc and Vettel’s cautious reaction to Friday’s running, ahead of a weekend where many think they are right in contention to fight for victory.
“I think they [Mercedes] are still very, very quick, so it’s going to be very difficult when they put everything together,” he said. “Today the car felt good on our side, so I’m pretty happy.
“The windy and the conditions in general were quite difficult but I think we made the best out of it, and hopefully we will do the same tomorrow.”
Ferrari carried out a series of tests during practice in a bid to understand why some of the new parts they brought to France didn’t work as they expected.
When asked about the parts, Leclerc replied: “Well I believe, as I said, that the car felt good, it felt good since the morning.”
It was a more frustrating day for Vettel, who lost the rear of his car at Turn 10, and though he kept the car out of the barriers, he was unable to complete a low-fuel soft tyre run, nor a long run on the softs.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t get the long run on the softs but apart from that, there was no further impact, the car was fine.
“I don’t know [about the pace]. In practice it always looks a bit stronger for us than qualifying and the race so we need to be cautious. We are still trying a lot of things to try and get closer.
“Hopefully tomorrow we can get a good feel and do better than today.”
Ferrari, remember, are without a victory since last year in the United States...