Leclerc issues stark Ferrari warning ahead of new season
Charles Leclerc has warned Ferrari faces a "very challenging season" following a major rethink for the Formula 1 team in the wake of a dismal testing performance.
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto revealed on Tuesday the team had taken a "significant change of direction" in its development of the SF1000, notably with regard to the aerodynamics.
With F1 teams also set to compete with 2020 machinery in 2021, the Scuderia has made the call early to change its development strategy.
While the change may be beneficial in the long run, Leclerc is expecting a difficult time in the early races.
“I think after testing we more or less knew that we were not where we wanted to be, especially on the qualifying pace," said Leclerc in the Thursday FIA drivers' press conference.
"Then with the whole situation with the coronavirus and everything was closed, once they reopened, we re-analysed the data with the small amount of time we had.
"I think we decided to make a step back to try to analyse where the issue is coming from before working on the issues, but first [you need to understand] where it comes from.
“That’s why for the moment, we have tried a different route, but there was not enough time to bring it here.”
Ferrari aims to bring an upgrade package to the third race of the season in Hungary, which means it heads into Sunday's season opener in Austria as the only front-running team without any upgrades on its cars.
Leclerc added: “I think it’s going to be a very challenging season for us. It’s definitely not going to be easy.
"We still have this question mark, and we still need to wait for qualifying to be absolutely sure of what we say, even if we are 99 per cent that we will be struggling more than last year.”
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