With the Italian outfit having elected to revamp its current car after having a disappointing pre-season test, it knows that until the changes come on board for the Hungarian Grand Prix then it could struggle.
The wait for the upgrades might be enough to permit rivals Mercedes and Red Bull to pull clear and, if the season ultimately ends up being truncated, then the lost ground could wreck any hopes of a title challenge.
Reflecting on the team’s situation prior to the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, Leclerc said: “I think it’s going to be an extremely challenging season for us. It’s definitely not likely to be easy.
“We still have this question mark, and we still have to await qualifying to be sure about what we say: despite the fact that we are 99% sure that individuals will be struggling more than a year ago.”
Leclerc said that Ferrari’s decision to choose a car revamp came throughout lockdown, if the team had more time and energy to look right back over the data from testing than it had had before the original season start in Australia.
“I think following the testing, we more or less knew that we weren’t where we wanted to be, especially on the qualifying pace,” he said. “Then there’s been this whole situation with coronavirus, everything was closed.
“Once they reopened, we re-analysed the information with the little amount of time we’d, and I do believe we chose to make a step back to try to analyse from where the issue is via first, to then focus on the issues.
“That’s where we’re at at the moment. We have tried a different route for Budapest.”
Teammate Sebastian Vettel said that he was intrigued to know just where Ferrari will build up this week-end after its disappointing showing in pre-season testing.
“I think following the test in Barcelona, it had been clear we were not where we wished to be,” he explained. “Obviously we were excited to visit Australia and see if that was true or perhaps not. I think in a way the exact same is true for here.
“It will be interesting to see where we have been, to get a remedy on that, and then we must take it from there. I do believe at this stage, also it’s as yet not known how long the growing season would be.
“I think at the moment we’ve eight races scheduled. Whether we will have these eight races, whether we will have more, lots of things are as yet not known.”