Charles Leclerc will be eager to begin the F1 season this weekend, with 2023 presenting an opportunity for Ferrari to rectify its mistakes and compete for the title.
The 25-year-old started last year in impressive fashion, securing victory in the first round at Bahrain and creating a comfortable lead in the standings by the Australian GP.
However, a series of issues with reliability, strategy and a lack of mid-season development proved costly in his Championship bid.
Ferrari switched its focus to the SF-23 after last year’s 2022 French GP, investing significant resources into making the necessary step to compete at the front.
A series of changes in senior positions at Maranello – including a new team principal – have been implemented to rectify their weaknesses from last season.
Ferrari showed glimpses of strong pace with the SF-23 during pre-season testing, especially in low-fuel runs where the Italian machine was pushed closer to its limits.
However, there are still reservations about the Scuderia’s level of performance during long runs – with tire wear presenting itself as a potential area of weakness for 2023.
This weekend will provide more conclusive answers on this front, although Charles Leclerc (speaking to Sky Italia) remains optimistic:
“The whole team is motivated. We worked a lot in Maranello on the simulator, I cannot wait to compete.
“Improving on second place means winning, that gives us the motivation to do more. The feeling of winning is what drives me every day, and Ferrari deserves to win the World Championship.
“We want to make this dream a reality, and we will push to achieve it.
“[Aston Martin’s pace] was the surprise of the tests, the early data confirms that rumours about the Aston Martin, and they seem to be near the front.
“We’ll see in qualifying and in the race, but they can be the surprise.”
Leclerc and Sainz were asked which drivers (apart from each other) could be their biggest threats this season.
There was little hesitation in Leclerc’s answer: “Lewis, Max and Fernando.”
A scenario where three or even four teams can fight for victories is very uncommon in Formula 1, although such an eventuality would undoubtedly be truly special if it transpires this year.
Regardless of whether this happens, both Sainz and Leclerc have been clear in their refusal to discount anyone in 2023.