Leclerc ready to put Ferrari woes and COVID behind him

By Sports Desk February 26, 2021

Charles Leclerc has been putting in the hours to ensure Ferrari bounce back from their worst season for 40 years.

In 2020, Leclerc finished eighth in the drivers' standings, with 98 points and two podiums to his name.

Even that fairly meagre return meant he fared better than Sebastian Vettel, who had 33 points and a solitary podium down in 13th.

The former world champion has joined Aston Martin for 2021 following the lowest points total of his career, with Carlos Sainz in place as Leclerc's new team-mate.

The Monegasque was cautiously optimistic at Friday's season launch, having left few stones unturned during the off-season, but he knows it is foolish to predict how a wounded Ferrari might fare against Formula One's other heavyweights.

"There has been a lot of work. We have been pushing quite a lot," he said.

"It always looks positive on paper but then we need to see what the others have done as a step.

"I have never been in [the] Ferrari [factory as much] as before this season. We have been doing quite a bit of tests with the old car. I feel very ready.

"I have been working in a similar way as in the past, trying to understand what my weaknesses were last year.

"I still believe tyre management is something I should push. I improved a lot last year and I hope there will be another step this year."

Last month, Leclerc was forced to put such intensive preparations on hold as he self-isolated having tested positive for coronavirus.

However, he offered assurances that there have been no lingering effects.

"COVID did not hit me that bad," said the 23-year-old. "I did some physical tests to make sure everything came back to normal and that is the case."

Having comprehensively out-driven Vettel as the younger man, Leclerc anticipates a different dynamic when Sainz – fresh from two seasons at McLaren – joins him on the grid for the 2021 opener in Bahrain on March 28.

"It is very clear we need to push for the team," he added.

"Carlos wants to beat me and I want to beat him too. We will try to be careful when we fight each other on track.

"What is most important is we separate what happens on the track and off the track. It is a fine line that every team-mate needs to find.

"Carlos is very competitive but he is also here for the benefit of the team, as I am. We will have to play it smart on that one."

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