Nevertheless the strong weekend performance was a huge boost to the team, and coming to another street circuit in Baku with lots of slow corners you might think that there would be some optimism that the team can again mix it with Red Bull and Mercedes.
The truth is that Baku has little in common with Monaco, with its long straights playing a bigger role in overall lap time than the corners. So although Leclerc says that the team’s Monaco performance was unexpected, he’s not anticipating a repeat performance.
“We knew we were competitive in the slow-speed corners, but it was still a surprise to be as competitive as we were in Monaco,” he told Motor Sport on Thursday.
“Now I’m happy to be here in Baku, I love this track, and I’ve always been quite competitive here. We just need to be realistic, though, and not get carried away too much by the results in Monaco, because that won’t be the case here.
“We will be fighting for fourth or fifth place, I believe. So yeah, we’ll try to give everything, and hopefully we can achieve good results. It’s not an easy weekend, especially being a city track, so everything can happen. And we’ll try to extract the maximum.”
The bottom line is that Ferrari expects to lose out to its main rivals on the straights, and it won’t be able to make up for that in the twisty stuff.
“No, it is not our ideal track,” Leclerc noted. “And I believe that in the next few races, we are going to struggle a bit more compared to the beginning of the season. But I think it’s all about us trying to stay calm, and not getting carried away by this beginning of the season that has been very, very good.
“It is very strange, because I think very rarely we’ve seen a car so competitive in Monaco, fighting for the win, and then you go on another track, and you are not as competitive at all. So it is quite difficult.
“But I think if we manage it well, with all the team, then we should extract the maximum, which is the most important thing. Our main rivals at the end are McLaren, and we need to focus on that battle.”
Sainz shares Leclerc’s view, and while he acknowledges that typically wild Baku races sometimes present unexpected podium opportunities, he admits that Ferrari won’t be at the front on pure performance this weekend.
“I think there’s been some very exciting Bakus,” the Spaniard told Motor Sport. “And some very boring ones. It can go both ways here, depending a bit on the whole picture of the field and everything.
“What we know is that as a team, we need to re-set a bit our expectations, and then we’re going to be back probably to the performance levels before Monte Carlo. But yeah, if something happens up front, then we want to be leading the midfield to try and capitalise on it.
“I think we’re gonna lose relative to our competition more on the straights here, it’s normal, it’s mathematics. And nowadays, with all the GPS data we have, and all the simulations we have, we know we are losing relative to Monaco three or four-tenths relative to the competition.
“So it’s going to be that way, unless we nail suddenly a magic set-up or something that gives us more performance than what we should have.