Just one week on from the Monegasque taking pole position for the United States Grand Prix, Leclerc feels his Italian squad is more on the back foot in Mexico City.
He and team-mate Carlos Sainz are battling to extract enough pace from the car over a single lap, with their task made all the more difficult by the aggressive characteristics of the available soft tyre.
So, despite Leclerc ending second free practice on Friday third-quickest, just 0.266 seconds behind pace-setting Max Verstappen, he offered a downbeat assessment of where things were at.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do, because the McLaren seems to be extremely strong,” said Leclerc.
“Obviously, the Red Bull and Max [Verstappen] seem to be very, very strong. Mercedes is a bit more difficult to read into for now, but focusing on ourselves, we know what are the areas we need to work on and hopefully that will help us to do a step forward.”
Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images
Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari
Asked about the chances of topping qualifying for the second weekend running, Leclerc said: “Oh, it will be a huge surprise if we do pole position, but never say never.
“It’s a tricky track. It’s very difficult to put a lap together, but I feel like this weekend we are a bit too far away.”
Sainz, who ended FP2 in 11th spot, explained that Ferrari was struggling with rear grip
“It’s been a tricky day for us,” he said. “To be honest, I think we expected to be a bit more competitive but, for one reason or another, we didn’t seem to nail the balance.
“Especially over one lap we seem to struggle quite a lot with the rear grip, and it is our main point of focus for [qualifying].
“That soft tyre is quite soft, and it overheats pretty quickly and it gets you in trouble. So yeah, now we’re going to focus and see if we can improve our one-lap pace. The field seems to be really, really tight, so I think it’s going to be a tough fight through Q1, Q2 and Q3.”