Leclerc convinced Ferrari is closer to Red Bull on F1 race pace in Miami

Although the Monegasque could do little about stopping Verstappen from roaring to yet another victory in the sprint, the fact that he was able to match his pace once he dropped into clean air has left him upbeat about his chances.

Critical, he thinks, for his chances to stop Red Bull from winning is to put Verstappen under pressure – something that he reckons could be on the cards.

But asked why he felt that way, with Verstappen having been pretty much untouchable so far this year, Leclerc said: «Just the sprint race, we were a little bit closer to what we normally see.

«However, Max wasn’t really happy with his car in the sprint race, so we need to see how much of a step forward he does being happier with the car.

«But we did some fine-tuning on our side. We’re also confident we did a step forward, so we’ll see.

«If we have a similar pace like we’ve seen [in the sprint] then I think with strategy you can always put a bit more pressure. I hope that is the case. We’ve got the two cars in the front, so it’s a good opportunity.»

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Leclerc felt that the gap in the sprint, where he finished 3.371 seconds behind Verstappen, was not truly representative of the performance of their cars – as he was especially hampered when running close to the Red Bull in dirty air.

Reflecting on the pace of the two cars throughout the 19-lap race, Leclerc said: «I think we were quite similar on that. Maybe in the last two, three laps, Max had the upper hand and he pulled away a bit more.

«But apart from that, I was just struggling a little bit with the dirty air. Whenever I was getting within 1.8s, 1.7s, I would drop to 2.2s, 2.3s, and then I would come back a little bit. I was mostly struggling with dirty air.

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«I think if I had the DRS on that first lap, we probably could have put him under a bit more pressure, but we didn’t.

«So we need to look into that to try and make sure that we keep the DRS if we are behind and we pull away if we are in front.»

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