SINGAPORE: Charles Leclerc told AFP his overriding aim was “to be world champion with Ferrari” first before any other rival team on the Formula One grid.
Leclerc was speaking in Singapore ahead of this weekend's 15th round of a season that has proved underwhelming for the Scuderia.
“It’s been difficult (the first half of the season) but I’m motivated at 200 percent to get back to last year’s form with the car and to once again be fighting for wins,“ he said.
“Because that’s where Ferrari deserves to be,“ insisted Leclerc, who finished second to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in 2022 but is lagging in sixth place ahead of Sunday’s race at Marina Bay.
The 25-year-old from Monaco said it had become evident Ferrari had work to do to catch up on rampant Red Bull after finishing fourth in the season-opener in Bahrain.
“After the first race, we realised we weren’t at the level we wanted to be at. But there was a huge response from the team,“ said Leclerc.
“We’re aware we have to make up for lost time, there’s still lots of work to be done.”
He said the situation had been hard to accept, but once recognised all the focus went on trying to produce a car that could compete with Verstappen and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.
With Verstappen going for his 11th consecutive win and Red Bull having won every race this season, Leclerc recognises Ferrari have their work cut out to gain a win this term.
“To be very honest and realistic I think that for this year it’s going to be very complicated,“ he said.
“But I don’t think we’ll be able to match Red Bull,“ he cautioned.
“Max is very at ease in the car. He’s extremely quick, makes very few if any mistakes. Red Bull have produced the best car too, they’ve done a very good job, better than anyone else on the grid. So ‘bravo’.”
- 'Always loved Ferrari' -
Looking to a brighter future in 2024, Leclerc, whose five race wins have been at the wheel of his Ferrari, said: “Everything is possible for next season with the aim to fight alongside Red Bull.”
Leclerc joined the team of his dreams in 2019 with a contract that runs until the end of next season, but he made clear he wants to stick around until he can land Ferrari's first world title since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.
“I’d always dreamt of being with Ferrari. I always loved Ferrari, it was my dream since I was a kid.
“The situation at the moment isn’t what I would have wanted, but that doesn’t make me forget that this is ‘my team’ and that my final goal is to be world champion with Ferrari.”
Ferrari changed bosses for the start of this season, with Fred Vasseur replacing Mattia Binotto as team principal, and Leclerc said he was “completely behind” the new man at the helm of the Scuderia.
“This project with Fred is a long term one, I’ve got 200 percent confidence in him and I’m convinced the choices he is making now are the right ones.
“I’m sure it’s just a question of time before we are back at the top, it just has to be in as short a time as possible.” -AFP