Leclerc labels Ferrari's season ‘disappointing’ as he discusses their chances of catching Red Bull over the winter
Charles Leclerc admits 2023 has been a “disappointing” season for Ferrari but says he remains confident about their future prospects following the “huge steps” made by the team towards the end of the year.
Ferrari made a brilliant start to the 2022 season under the new ground effect technical regulations, with Leclerc winning two of the first three races – in Bahrain and Australia – and leading the championship by 34 points to George Russell in second.
But their title challenge fell away with Max Verstappen and Red Bull taking top honours at the end of the year. Ferrari wound up second ahead of Mercedes before returning in 2023 hoping to reignite their title-winning hopes.
However, they failed to do so, with Carlos Sainz’s victory in Singapore their only win this season. Leclerc was also able to secure five consecutive front-row starts to end the year (including three pole positions) as well as three podiums in the final four races – in Mexico, Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi – but none could be converted into victory.
Reflecting on a season in which Ferrari wound up third behind Red Bull and Mercedes in the championship, Leclerc said: “To be honest it’s been a disappointing season. After last year, we expected to come to this season and try and fight for the championship.
“After the first race, we straightaway understood how difficult it will be compared to the Red Bull that had done a huge step forward, especially in race pace. We didn’t do the same step. So, from that moment onwards, it was a bit disappointing.
“On the other hand, if you just look at this season – forget about last season – I think we’ve progressed quite a lot throughout the season which is positive and makes me confident for the future.
“But there’s a big gap to fill to get back to the Red Bulls so we’ll work hard during the winter break and hopefully we’ll come back stronger next year with a car that is capable of winning.”
Ferrari missed out on beating Mercedes in the championship by just three points and Leclerc later revealed whether that was an accurate representation of the season, and if the Scuderia did indeed have the third best car in 2023.
“Yeah, it depends where we are,” explained Leclerc. "It’s so much up and down. We’ve got races where we were definitely the second fastest cars, other races where maybe we were the fourth or fifth fastest car, so it was really up and down.
“But I believe that since Japan, when we brought an upgrade to the car, it went in the right direction, especially for my driving style. I always like to have a strong front and I felt much more at ease and could be much more consistent. So yeah, that’s a positive.
“Then, of course, very disappointed with that third place in the constructors’ as that was my only target since two or three races now. It was until the very last lap, I tried to give [Sergio Perez] the DRS for him to try and pull away five seconds to George, but that didn’t quite work out.”