Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019

Will Leclerc turn his first pole into his first win?

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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As they did in 2018, Ferrari have annexed the front row of the grid for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Will the red cars now romp to victory on race day? And, most intriguingly, is Charles Leclerc about to join F1’s pantheon of race-winning drivers?

Ferrari’s new star has left next to no room to doubt he is capable of it. Following his assured run to pole position on Saturday, sweeping all three stages of qualifying, his breakthrough victory is now a case of ‘when’, not ‘if’. And ‘when’ may well be Sunday.

According to their rivals Mercedes, Ferrari’s key advantage is their straight-line speed advantage. It remains to be seen whether this is down to engine performance or differing downforce and drag levels. However, it is curious that while Sebastian Vettel tops the speed trap figures, pole-sitting team mate Leclerc’s top speed was much closer to that of the silver cars.

Has Vettel favoured slightly less downforce – and therefore drag – on his Ferrari for the race? Will this bring with a penalty when it comes to preserving his tyres over a stint?

“It’s not a night-and-day difference between race and qualifying set-up,” explained Valtteri Bottas. “But small things which can cost you a few hundredths in the qualifying can be a bit of a benefit with tyre life in the race.”

A variable the teams have had to contend with this year is the consequences of the third DRS zone which has been added to the track. That plus the great power of DRS this year could make overtaking significantly easier in the race. Bottas revealed this influenced Mercedes’ set-up choice for the race.

“Just with the way now this track is with the new cars, with the extra DRS zone, we rated the race pace a bit higher than normally. We’ll see if it’s good tomorrow.”

Sergio Perez predicted overtaking will be much easier in the race. “The DRS is more powerful so I think here we should see a lot more overtaking,” he said. “Purely down to the DRS.”

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Sergio Perez, Racing Point, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019
Perez predicts DRS will make passing much easier
If overtaking has become significantly easier then the penalty of making an extra pit stop is lessened. Pirelli believes a two-stop strategy is theoretically eight seconds quicker than a one-stop around this track with its notably abrasive surface

However as the midfield has moved closer to the pace of the front-running teams this year, they will drop back from them more slowly in the race, potentially discouraging such strategies. One-stop is still likely to be the preferred choice.

Based on their practice pace, Bottas is hopeful Mercedes can apply pressure to Ferrari. “The question is how much further they can run in the race,” he said.

“At least what we saw in practice I think the race pace looked good, a pretty strong run on the soft tyre. Tyre drop-off seemed for sure not worse than anyone else so going into tomorrow thinking we can have good pace and still fight for the race.”

If Mercedes can run close enough to the Ferraris to pressure them into pitting early, that could open up some interesting strategic possibilities later in the race. There’s also the added question of whether any of the teams which in Australia shied away from making an pit stop to chase the bonus point for fastest lap will do so this time. Ferrari have already indicated they might.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Charles LeclercFerrari1’28.4951’28.046 (-0.449)1’27.866 (-0.180)
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1’28.7331’28.356 (-0.377)1’28.160 (-0.196)
3Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’29.2621’28.578 (-0.684)1’28.190 (-0.388)
4Valtteri BottasMercedes1’29.4981’28.830 (-0.668)1’28.256 (-0.574)
5Max VerstappenRed Bull1’29.5791’29.109 (-0.470)1’28.752 (-0.357)
6Kevin MagnussenHaas1’29.5321’29.017 (-0.515)1’28.757 (-0.260)
7Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren1’29.5281’29.055 (-0.473)1’28.813 (-0.242)
8Romain GrosjeanHaas1’29.6881’29.249 (-0.439)1’29.015 (-0.234)
9Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo1’29.9591’29.471 (-0.488)1’29.022 (-0.449)
10Lando NorrisMcLaren1’29.3811’29.258 (-0.123)1’29.043 (-0.215)
11Daniel RicciardoRenault1’29.8591’29.488 (-0.371)
12Alexander AlbonToro Rosso1’29.5141’29.513 (-0.001)
13Pierre GaslyRed Bull1’29.9001’29.526 (-0.374)
14Sergio PerezRacing Point1’29.8931’29.756 (-0.137)
15Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’29.8761’29.854 (-0.022)
16Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo1’30.026
17Nico HulkenbergRenault1’30.034
18Lance StrollRacing Point1’30.217
19George RussellWilliams1’31.759
20Robert KubicaWilliams1’31.799

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Charles Leclerc27.762 (1)38.066 (2)22.036 (1)
Sebastian Vettel27.825 (2)38.120 (3)22.146 (4)
Lewis Hamilton27.946 (3)38.137 (4)22.104 (3)
Valtteri Bottas28.029 (4)38.065 (1)22.098 (2)
Max Verstappen28.138 (7)38.331 (5)22.283 (7)
Kevin Magnussen28.152 (9)38.399 (6)22.152 (5)
Carlos Sainz Jnr28.037 (5)38.412 (7)22.364 (10)
Romain Grosjean28.298 (13)38.513 (9)22.204 (6)
Kimi Raikkonen28.108 (6)38.513 (9)22.352 (9)
Lando Norris28.211 (10)38.414 (8)22.418 (12)
Daniel Ricciardo28.285 (11)38.857 (16)22.339 (8)
Alexander Albon28.148 (8)38.707 (12)22.479 (14)
Pierre Gasly28.292 (12)38.575 (11)22.499 (15)
Sergio Perez28.454 (15)38.835 (14)22.398 (11)
Daniil Kvyat28.531 (16)38.808 (13)22.465 (13)
Antonio Giovinazzi28.577 (18)38.835 (14)22.614 (16)
Nico Hulkenberg28.386 (14)38.953 (17)22.649 (18)
Lance Stroll28.575 (17)39.000 (18)22.634 (17)
George Russell28.862 (19)39.799 (20)23.098 (19)
Robert Kubica28.879 (20)39.623 (19)23.117 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari327.7 (203.6)
2Daniel RicciardoRenaultRenault327.3 (203.4)-0.4
3Lance StrollRacing PointMercedes326.1 (202.6)-1.6
4Alexander AlbonToro RossoHonda324.9 (201.9)-2.8
5Sergio PerezRacing PointMercedes324.5 (201.6)-3.2
6George RussellWilliamsMercedes324.3 (201.5)-3.4
7Antonio GiovinazziAlfa RomeoFerrari324.1 (201.4)-3.6
8Charles LeclercFerrariFerrari323.5 (201.0)-4.2
9Nico HulkenbergRenaultRenault323.2 (200.8)-4.5
10Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes322.8 (200.6)-4.9
11Daniil KvyatToro RossoHonda322.6 (200.5)-5.1
12Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoFerrari322.5 (200.4)-5.2
13Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes322.5 (200.4)-5.2
14Robert KubicaWilliamsMercedes321.6 (199.8)-6.1
15Carlos Sainz JnrMcLarenRenault321.5 (199.8)-6.2
16Lando NorrisMcLarenRenault321.1 (199.5)-6.6
17Pierre GaslyRed BullHonda320.3 (199.0)-7.4
18Max VerstappenRed BullHonda319.5 (198.5)-8.2
19Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari319.0 (198.2)-8.7
20Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari316.8 (196.9)-10.9

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Over to you

Will Leclerc turn his first pole position into a breakthrough win? Can Mercedes put Ferrari under pressure?

Share your views on the Bahrain Grand Prix in the comments.

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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16 comments on “Will Leclerc turn his first pole into his first win?”

  1. I expect LC to go with the normal Ferrari flow and disappear downstream without any Seb drama or handwringing … a drama free-event from the front row per orders. We’ll see about Max, Sainz, & Mag …. n Louie-Louie

  2. If the ferrari engine is so quick down the straight how come Haas are so slow.

    1. @millionus Probably Haas went for more downforce.

      1. @miguelbento, it does indeed seem to be the case that the two Haas drivers have gone for a higher downforce set up. I believe that Auto Motor und Sport have claimed that Magnussen was matching the Red Bull drivers in terms of cornering speed, which would seem to support the hypothesis that they’ve gone for a slightly higher downforce set up than some of those around them.

  3. georgeboole (@)
    31st March 2019, 9:49

    What I saw on the side by side lap comparison between Vettel and Leclerc was that they were almost even in straights but Vettel was losing time in the fast turns. So I m confident Vettel was running low on drag compared to the rest of the field.

  4. This could be a corker of a race. Fingers crossed for some excitement!

  5. My take:
    LEC – HAM – VER – VET – BOT
    That would be the order of after 1st lap and stay that way until checker flag. Seb getting pushed early by Lewis and Max took advantage. Both Charles and Lewis play pace management after. Seb going to be much faster than Max but couldn’t passed him. Bottas will take the extra pit and get his second flap point.

    1. wait…

      “It’s not a night-and-day difference between race and qualifying set-up,” explained Valtteri Bottas. “But small things which can cost you a few hundredths in the qualifying can be a bit of a benefit with tyre life in the race.”

      Valtteri never get beaten in Bahrain in quali by his teammate for the last 7 years. Did Bottas knew something Lewis didn’t? Did he aimed to beat Lewis ‘in’ the race?

    2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      31st March 2019, 12:26

      i don’t think Red bull are that strong here. But I think due to how easy to is to overtake gasly will be able to close up. If they finished in the order you say, I don’t think Bottas would risk pitting again for fastest lap. Gasly would likely be getting close and the Hass look really fast too.

      I think it is certainly going to be a ferrari 1 – 2. followed by the 2 Mercedes. But I’m not certain which way round the ferrari or Mercedes drivers will be.

  6. I love how there’s been so much hype about Verstappen and how he’s the next big champion and then Leclerc just quietly comes along and could well win the championship this year.

    1. The first thing thing you need almost always is the WCC car, or once in a while a very close second place WCC car. Max will be WDC when he has that. CL may or may not have that this year but he still has everything to prove against proven SV and LH. Let’s see the season through before we hand CL the WDC because of one pole position.

    2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      31st March 2019, 12:20

      and i dont understand the hype about Leclerc. He got pole in the fastest car in bahrain in his first year with them. Bottas got pole in bahrain in the first year with Mercedes, then won in russia. Where was the hype about Bottas? I admit Leclerc did very well, but as he says, it is just qualifying. We have a long way to go before suggesting he has strong chance of getting the championship this year.

      1. @thegianthogweed, in the case of Bottas, that was probably because there was some criticism of his performances in Williams, where he showed a tendency to sometimes slip in performance in the latter part of the season if he started losing confidence.

        I think that did drag down expectations of his performance by the time that he ended up at Mercedes, which was probably part of the reason for the cooler reception. Bottas did still get a reasonable amount of favourable coverage, and even a few considering backing him as an outside contender for the WDC that season, but at the same time I think that there was a concern, and even an expectation, that he would start flagging towards the end of the season.

        That ties into the attitudes towards his mentality for the season, and the way that Leclerc dealt with moments of adversity and personal loss in his junior career. I think that what has excited people the most is the reserve that Leclerc has shown and the focus on self improvement in a way that somebody like Bottas has not shown.

        Some mechanics at Williams and Mercedes are supposed to have mentioned that Bottas was vulnerable to getting stuck in a rut and letting his performance dip over multiple races, whereas Leclerc has shown a degree of self discipline, perseverance and maturity for his age – he is the second youngest pole sitter on record and still one of the youngest drivers on the grid – that has won people over.

        It’s not just a case of the raw performance, therefore, but also the approach that Leclerc seems to be taking to preparing for his races that is impression people and resulting in the hype. Now, as you say, it is still a very early point in the season to be jumping to such conclusions and I would agree that we really should wait and see how he can perform over an extended run of races, but I can see why – even if perhaps it is a little premature – there might be those who are rather hyped up about him right now.

  7. “The DRS is more powerful so I think here we should see a lot more overtaking,” “Purely down to the DRS.”
    – Too early to judge. We shall wait and see. Maybe it isn’t going to be as bad as some have feared after all.

  8. More importantly will be see a rehash of Austrian GP 2002 with Leclerc having to pull over for overglorified teammate and fearing the safety of family by threats from Mafia.

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