Charles Leclerc said the feeling in his SF90 was good during Friday practice at the Red Bull Ring, with the Monegasque racer setting the fastest time of the afternoon session in Austria.
The Scuderia Ferrari driver’s lap of 1:05.086 was good enough to lead Mercedes AMG Motorsport’s Valtteri Bottas by more than three-tenths of a second, but despite this, he was still a couple of tenths off the best time of the day set by Bottas’ team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the morning session.
Leclerc says work still needs to be done to make the next step forward this weekend, and he is looking forward to see just where Ferrari stands in relation to the opposition during Saturday’s Qualifying session.
“Overall, we had quite a productive day and completed a lot of tests around the set-up,” said Leclerc. “The feeling in the car was good.
“It was a bit tricky with the wind changing direction, especially in FP2, which made it more challenging to predict what would happen in the corners. Although we have been fast today, we will work hard to take another step forward.
“On my side, as I did in France, I also have to focus on setting up the car in the best way to follow the track evolution in qualifying. I think we made the best out of it and I look forward to seeing where we stand tomorrow.”
Team-mate Sebastian Vettel had finished second fastest in the morning session but was only eighth in the afternoon, with the German lucky to escape with damage after going off track after being caught out by the gusting wind at the Red Bull Ring.
Vettel said that the team ran the same components that they introduced to the SF90 last weekend at the Circuit Paul Ricard in France to get a better understanding of them, and he feels the work done across the two sessions was a success.
“My off-track excursion didn’t have a big effect on our programme, other than that we couldn’t do the long run on the softs,” said Vettel. “I was able to stop in time and did not damage the car.
“We are still trying a lot of things and getting closer. Hopefully tomorrow we can do better than today. It was a bit tricky in the afternoon with the windy conditions. We didn’t actually try new updates, we ran the same parts as last weekend to be able to learn more about them and I think it was successful.”
Vettel says the team need now to understand what to address next as they continue to chase Mercedes in the championship. He believes the layout of the Red Bull Ring is giving them a boost compared to their rivals this weekend, but it is still important to get a good feeling in the car ahead of Qualifying on Saturday but more importantly the race on Sunday.
“Now we need time to understand what to address next,” said Vettel. “Our balance in the corners is not bad, we can still improve the car and we tried a few things in the afternoon.
“Maybe the track layout helps us a bit, but this remains a tricky track where it is crucial to have a good feeling in the car and that’s what we have to work on now.”