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How Charles Leclerc got his first podium of the season in Jeddah

Charles Leclerc of Ferrari celebrating his third place at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, 2024

Charles Leclerc is third at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with a solid race. His performance confirmed Ferrari as the second-best team behind Red Bull.

Charles Leclerc won his first podium of the season, the second one for Ferrari, this week in Jeddah. The number 16 was on the lower step of the podium behind the two Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. The weekend of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix confirmed that Ferrari did, in fact, improve from last season and it’s currently second force. However, it’s also important to keep working in this direction if they want to catch up on Red Bull.

The whole week was quite interesting for Leclerc and the whole Scuderia. Starting on Thursday, the Ferrari seemed to be competitive on all tyre compounds. They had good race pace and good grip, especially on soft tyres.

Friday saw a new teammate on the grid for Leclerc. Carlos Sainz had appendicitis and the 18 years old Oliver Bearman replaced him. So, Charles Leclerc was kind of a mentor for that day, as Bearman said that he gave him some tips for the race.

At the front again

It is a well-known fact how good Leclerc is in Qualifying. Last year, despite the issues of the SF-23, he was able to gain poles and front rows. This season is no different: even though he didn’t get a pole yet, he already collected two starts from the front.

He was a bit unlucky in Jeddah during the Q2. The Monégasque was on softs, and he was ready to complete his push lap, but Nico Hülkenberg caused a red flag before he could close it. He tried again once the session was resumed, and he did an incredible lap of 1’28”642.

For Q3 there was little to be done. Despite how much he pushed through the whole session, Max Verstappen was unreachable. Leclerc was on softs and closed his first lap in p4. He made another attempt, and was able to lower his best time to 1’27”791. He was p2 behind the Dutch driver and ahead of the second Red Bull Sergio Perez.

Charles Leclerc started at the front for the seventh time in a row. Also, for the fourth time in the last five races the front row is occupied by the duo Verstappen – Leclerc.

A step forward

Leclerc’s race at the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix was a little bit lonely. At the start, he kept the second position on Perez, but the Red Bull of Verstappen was already gone. The Ferrari had a good pace on mediums, as expected from free practice, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the World Champions. In fact, at lap 4, the Monégasque tried to defend against the Mexican driver, but at the end he had to give up the position to Perez.

On lap 7, Lance Stroll went against a wall and caused a Safety Car. The Scuderia, as well as other teams, took advantage of this to pit Charles Leclerc for hard tyres. His pit was longer due to traffic and the number 16 came back on the track in P5. Not long after that, he overtook Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris, both drivers didn’t pit during the SC.

From that point onwards, his race wasn’t really eventful, but he had a good rhythm. Comparing his lap time to his temporary teammate Ollie Bearman, the two Ferrari were constant, and their pace was impressive. Even though the Red Bulls were fast, it’s obvious that, at the moment, Ferrari is the second-strongest team on the grid. An important step forward if compared to last season.

And to prove it, Leclerc signed the fastest lap of 1’31″632 just before crossing the final line. He was on the podium in third position, the second one in a row for the Scuderia.

“Today we have expressed all our potential, we have done nothing wrong” he said, “I would say that I was comfortable in the car”.

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