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Charles Leclerc takes early advantage over Red Bull in Australia

Leclerc and Ferrari impress in Australia Free Practice

Charles Leclerc topped the timing sheets in Australia’s FP2 session, showcasing the potential within the SF-24 machine. The Maranello-based outfit has been quietly confident about its performance in 2024, quickly becoming established as the second-fastest team.

Heading into this weekend, Fred Vasseur’s team prepared a small update to the SF-24. This upgrade is at the rear of the car and is designed to improve their efficiency and top speed. Still, this is only a minor improvement ahead of the team’s major overhaul planned for Imola.

Returning to Melbourne and this weekend’s action, the Italian squad is again showing promising speed.

A glance at the final standings is enough to show that Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz should be near the front on Saturday. This is nothing new for Ferrari, though, with Leclerc starting second or higher in the last seven weekends.

However, perhaps the more encouraging development is the SF-24’s consistency in the race simulations. Even on higher fuel running, Leclerc was faster than anyone else – including Max Verstappen in the RB20.

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Ferrari impress in Melbourne race simulations

If the Monegasque can put himself in Pole Position, his chances for race victory are legitimate. This year’s Scuderia challenger is kind to its tyres and – ironically – performs better on race day than in qualifying.

Of course, a larger sample size is necessary before definitive conclusions are made. Still, suggesting that Ferrari can compete with Red Bull for race victories seems a far-fetched idea. Even Red Bull’s Helmut Marko identified the SF-24 as a legitimate threat to the RB20 after Free Practice.

What is certainly not bold to say is that the Maranello team is most likely to upset the status quo.

Mercedes struggled in Free Practice, with Lewis Hamilton complaining about a W15 that became more difficult to manage over time. This was reflected in the timing sheets, with the 7-time Champion sitting in virtually last place.

Aston Martin has shown promise in Albert Park so far, though the AMR24  remains a few steps behind the Ferrari. McLaren, meanwhile, is paying the price for a car with an ineffective DRS and a generally draggy nature.

This is also an important strength that the Ferrari F1 Team enjoys. For the first time in many years, the Italian-made machine has no obvious weaknesses.

Leclerc and Sainz can be expected to fight for podium positions at the bare minimum for the foreseeable future. Based on the evidence today, they are also capable of fighting at the front for victories.


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