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Leclerc praises performance of Ferrari upgrades as he prepares for ‘super important’ qualifying in Imola

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IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 17: Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari prepares to drive in the garage during

Charles Leclerc was pleased to enjoy a strong first day on track at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix as Ferrari ran a series of upgrades, but also warned of a need to “keep our feet on the ground” ahead of qualifying on Saturday.

Leclerc looked to be feeling comfortable in his SF-24, having topped the timesheets in both of Friday’s practice sessions in Imola. Reflecting back on how the day had gone, the Monegasque commented: “For now, everything went quite smoothly.

READ MORE: FP2: Leclerc stays in front during second practice in Imola from Piastri and Tsunoda

“The feeling with the car is quite good, the upgrades on the car are working as expected which also is a good step. And yeah, it’s been a very smooth day so it is great, and being at home is always a special feeling for Ferrari, being here and having so much support all over the track means so much for all of us.

“It will be great if the weekend continues in that direction. However, tomorrow the conditions will change massively. The wind will completely turn around, which will have a big effect on all the cars, and there we have to be the best at anticipating those changes.”

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 17: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-24 on track during

Leclerc set the pace in both of Friday's practice sessions at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

In contrast to Ferrari’s performance, it appeared to be a difficult day for Red Bull, with Max Verstappen complaining of issues with grip throughout both practice hours.

With this in mind, Leclerc was asked if he was dreaming about what could be to come in qualifying and Sunday’s race, to which the 26-year-old responded: “We need to keep our feet on the ground, because tomorrow is going to be big changes with the track conditions.

READ MORE: FP1: Leclerc leads Russell and Sainz during first practice in Imola as Albon brings out red flags

“Track position here is absolutely everything, so qualifying will be super important and it will be important for us to do the job in qualifying. So there is still a lot of work for to do, and we will give it our all to have a great qualifying tomorrow.”

On the other side of the Ferrari garage, Carlos Sainz also voiced a positive note about Friday’s running. The Spaniard ended FP2 in sixth place on the timesheets, having earlier finished in third during FP1.

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 17: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving (55) the Ferrari SF-24 in the Pitlane during

Sainz took the opportunity to explore set-up options during FP2 in Imola

“I’m feeling good,” Sainz said after the second practice hour. “I had a good FP1, I felt really at home with the car and then we used FP2 as a bit of a test session to try a couple of things.

“It’s been a long time since we had the opportunity to test since it’s been two Sprint weekends in a row. We wanted to test a couple of items, explore a bit the car set-up, probably went in the wrong direction but we will go back to the FP1 set-up and probably feel stronger again tomorrow.”

HIGHLIGHTS: Ferrari lead day one in Emilia-Romagna as Leclerc heads FP2 at Imola

On how useful it was to have back-to-back practice sessions – following Sprint weekends with just one practice session at the last two rounds in Miami and China – as well as assessing the updates on the car, Sainz added: “It’s been a while, as I said, since we could test and back to back some things.

"Regarding the upgrades, honestly across different circuits you don’t feel them, you just hope they are making you go faster. I think the right moment to evaluate will be at the end of the weekend once everyone has shown all of their cards.”

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