There is little optimism for Ferrari’s Mexico City Grand Prix weekend as Charles Leclerc warns it will be a ‘huge surprise’ to see a scarlet car challenge for pole on Saturday.

Leclerc enters the Mexico race weekend off the back of a pole position in Austin, but the Monegasque is doubtful over the possibility of repeating last weekend’s qualifying result.

Despite his concerns, Leclerc enjoyed a rather straight-forward day of running on Friday which saw him fifth fastest in FP1.

The Ferrari ace later improved to third in FP2, only 0.266s slower than pacesetter Max Verstappen in the Red Bull.

Lando Norris split Leclerc and Verstappen after the conclusion of FP2, with Leclerc fearing that the SF-23 won’t be able to prove a match for some of its nearest competitors.

“We still have a lot of work to do because the McLaren seems to be extremely strong, obviously the Red Bull and Max seem to be very very strong,” the 21-time polesitter said.

“Mercedes are 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 take a step forward tomorrow.

“It will be a huge surprise if we do pole position tomorrow, but never say never. It’s a tricky track, it’s very difficult to put a lap together but I feel this weekend we are a bit too far away.”

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP), Scuderia Ferrari 27.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 20, Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City, Mexico, Practice Day. –, EMail: © Copyright: Charniaux / XPB Images


Things were less straight-forward on the opposite side of the Ferrari garage as Carlos Sainz suffered a hydraulics issue early in FP1, which cost him some valuable running.

“It’s been a tricky day for us to be honest,” conceded the Spaniard, who is still recovering from an illness which saw him skip Thursday’s media duties.

“I think we expected to be a bit more competitive but for one reason or another, we didn’t seem to nail the balance.

Amid the set-back, the 29-year-old echoed his team-mate’s concerns, admitting that it could be an uphill battle for the Italian marque to challenge at the top on Sunday.

“Over one lap especially we seem to struggle quite a lot with rear grip and that’s our main point of focus for tomorrow [Saturday],” he added.

“That soft tyre is quite soft and overheats pretty quickly and gets you in trouble. Now we are going to focus and see if we can improve our one lap pace. The field seems to be really tight so I think it’s going to be tough fights in Q1, Q2 and Q3.”

Sainz was only able to manage 11th fastest in the slightly-drizzly FP2 session, three tenths shy of Leclerc’s best.

But having experienced illness and then missed out on some track-time, the ex-McLaren driver hopes for better fortunes over the remainder of the weekend.

“Maybe today I was not 100% although I was feeling okay. I should only get better through the weekend,” Sainz concluded.

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