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Leclerc buoyed by first day in Montreal as Ferrari package feels ‘very competitive’ in wet or dry

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MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JUNE 06: Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari talks to the media in the Paddock

Charles Leclerc cut an upbeat figure following Friday’s pair of practice sessions for the Canadian Grand Prix, talking up Ferrari’s general level of performance across the variety of conditions seen in FP1 and FP2.

With first practice starting in the wet and gradually drying out, and the reverse happening in second practice, drivers spent the day at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve swapping between slick tyres and the wet and intermediate rubber.

FP2: Alonso goes fastest while Verstappen suffers problems during rain-affected second practice in Canada

While lap times were not their focus, Ferrari featured towards the top of the order throughout, with Carlos Sainz and Leclerc placing second and third respectively in the opening 60-minute session, and the Monaco Grand Prix winner remaining in the top four as the day wore on.

Asked if he learned enough from his time at the wheel, Leclerc said: “I mean, as much as we can in those conditions, of course. On the car, it’s very difficult to do anything because every time you go out you face a different feeling with the car.

“But all in all, I’m happy because we are very competitive in all of the conditions. We were never really on top of the timesheets just because we didn’t do the time at the right time in the session with the driest track etc., but I think every lap we were doing we were very competitive, so that is a good thing.

MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JUNE 07: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-24 on track

Drivers made a splash at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Friday

“But that doesn’t mean that there is [not] a lot to improve on the car. We still have to do some changes for tomorrow that hopefully will bring us in a better position again.”

As for whether he and the team are set on what they need to do with their set-up heading into Saturday’s action, when more rain is expected, he said: “It is quite clear as much as everybody will have a scatter as to what we feel today and what we will feel tomorrow if we have dry conditions.

READ MORE: Verstappen admits first day in Canada ‘not ideal’ as he reacts to FP2 technical issue

“But let’s see. If FP3 and quali are dry, we will have FP3 to set up the car, if FP3 is wet and quali is dry, it is going to go into qualifying with a lot of unknowns for everybody. But we have always been pretty good at having a good starting set-up, so hopefully we maybe try it again.”

Sainz, who placed 13th in the second session, underlined that his priority was to learn as much as possible about tyre performance in the mixed conditions rather than pushing for pace-setting times.

“You can always learn things,” he commented. “For me it was more about mapping a bit the rain intensity, the track, how dry and wet it was, which tyre was the right one at the right time. It looks like it’s going to be useful learning, because the rest of the weekend could be very similar to today.

FP2 Highlights: 2024 Canadian Grand Prix

“More than going for outright lap time and trying to put a lap on the board, [I] was feeling the car in different conditions and seeing come Saturday qualifying and Sunday which will be the right tyre at the right time.”

Pushed on the opportunity for a standout result, Sainz continued: “For sure [that’s] the target on Saturday and Sunday if it is mixed conditions, [as] everything opens up.

READ MORE: Alonso reflects on ‘tricky’ Friday despite going fastest as he warns of ‘gamble’ for rest of weekend in Canada

“Last time it is true as a team we struggled in the wet in China Sprint quali, so we had to analyse why we were both cars a bit off with the warm-up of the tyre, and we were so far off Lando [Norris] in pole position.

“Unfortunately, the driver, it’s not like it makes a lot of difference these days, it’s all about how the car brings the tyre into the right temperature window and if it does, then you are two, three seconds quicker. That’s where we are focusing right now.”

Ferrari head into the weekend just 24 points behind Red Bull in the constructors’ standings, while Leclerc is looking to take another chunk out of Max Verstappen’s advantage in the drivers’ battle, which now stands at 31 points.

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