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‘He deserves it’ – Leclerc praises team mate Sainz as he admits needing to do ‘a better job’

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Race winner Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari and Second placed

Charles Leclerc was left with mixed feelings after the Australian Grand Prix despite the race on paper being perfect for Ferrari, as they took home a 1-2 and the bonus point for fastest lap.

But with Carlos Sainz emerging a comfortable victor over the Monegasque driver, it was clear that the result left Leclerc a touch frustrated.

READ MORE: Verstappen explains 'really weird' cause of early retirement from Australian Grand Prix

His problems really began on Saturday, as he tried to be too aggressive in qualifying and wound up paying the price with a P5 grid slot to his team mate’s P2. That at least became fourth thanks to Sergio Perez’s grid penalty, but still left Leclerc playing catch up on a day where Sainz didn’t put a foot wrong in recording Ferrari’s first victory of the year.

Leclerc had to work hard for his podium, undercutting Lando Norris who was ahead on track, before doing everything he could to put pressure on his team mate ahead. With Sainz out of sight in the final stint, Leclerc’s attentions turned to defending from the McLaren behind, which he was able to do with relative ease in the end.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-24 on track

Leclerc was able to hold off a charging Norris towards the end of the Grand Prix

“My own performance, I’m not extremely happy, in qualifying I didn’t do a great job so I’m starting further back than I would have hoped for,” Leclerc said afterwards.

“In the race my second stint wasn’t great, I had a lot of front graining. My last stint was great but I was too far back to do anything and Carlos has been on it the whole weekend so congratulations to him. He deserves it, really happy for the team.”

READ MORE: ‘Life is crazy sometimes’ – Sainz overjoyed after ‘rollercoaster’ ride from hospital bed to Australian GP victory

Second place has lifted Leclerc above Perez in the drivers’ standings and he now lies just four points behind Max Verstappen, so there are plenty of positives to take – even if he knows that the Dutchman will be back, hungrier than ever come the next race.

“We have scored maximum points, we also have the fastest lap so we couldn’t have hoped for better as a team and on my side, I always try and do a better job,” he said afterwards. “This weekend I haven’t been particularly on form since yesterday but if on weekends I’m not on form, I’m second with the fastest lap then I’ll sign.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Race winner Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari and Second placed

Ferrari recorded their first 1-2 for over two years in Melbourne

Ferrari’s pace over one lap has been impressive, both last year and at the start of this season. But it is their race pace that let them down in 2023, tyre graining the main culprit.

Harder on their Pirelli rubber than the Red Bulls, the best news to come out of Melbourne was that here, they were arguably able to extract much more from their tyres than Perez – which bodes very well for the rest of the season, especially if Red Bull have reliability issues to contend with following the retirement of Verstappen with a brake issue.

HIGHLIGHTS: Relive the action from a dramatic Australian Grand Prix as Sainz wins while Verstappen retires

“I think we will have weekends where we will put pressure on [Red Bull],” Leclerc said. “We cannot get too carried away, just because there was no Max [Verstappen] in the race today and we know how fast he is on race pace.

“But for sure, if we keep working like this, there will be races where I put him under a lot of pressure.”

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