Motor Sports

Leclerc hopes new Ferrari F1 car will be easier to drive

LONDON: Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz sounded positive today at the launch of a 2024 car they expected to be easier to drive and develop through the longest of Formula One seasons.

The sport's most successful team, and only one to have competed in every world championship since 1950, dropped to third overall last year behind Mercedes and runaway champions Red Bull.

Monaco's Leclerc said the SF-24, which the team said "breaks with the tradition of the last two years", should be less sensitive and easier to drive than last year's difficult and disappointing one.

"I expect the car to be a step forward in several areas and from the impression I formed in the simulator I think we're where we want to be," he added after an online reveal and physical launch at the Fiorano test track.

"This season the aim is to be front runners all the time and I want to give our fans plenty to cheer about."

Leclerc will again partner Spaniard Sainz, who is in his final year at Maranello before making way for Mercedes' seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton in 2025.

Sainz was the only driver last season to beat Red Bull, his victory in Singapore denying the champions a sweep of all 22 races.

This season has expanded to a record 24 races, with China returning post-pandemic and Italy's Imola back on after being cancelled by flooding last year.

"I have seen a completely different look, both on the shapes but also on the design and it excites me. I just cannot wait to drive it," said Sainz.

The car is the first fully conceived under team boss Fred Vasseur, who took over from Mattia Binotto in January 2023, and the Frenchman said the team needed to continue last season's strong finish.

"We have also to be focused on the weaknesses of 2023 and to be much more opportunistic in terms of points scored and we will be focused on this," he added.

Ferrari ended last season with Leclerc runner-up to Red Bull's Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi but still 17.8 seconds behind the triple world champion whose team had long given up developing their car.

Chassis technical director Enrico Cardile said every area of the Ferrari had been redesigned.

"We have taken on board what the drivers told us and turned those ideas into engineering reality, with the aim of giving them a car that's easier to drive and therefore easier to get the most out of and push it to its limits," he said.

The mostly red car, the 70th that Ferrari have built to compete in Formula One, features yellow longitudinal stripes for the first time since 1968 along with some white.

The season starts in Bahrain on March 2. — REUTERS

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