Leclerc thought he might keep Bottas behind after first-lap pass

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc revealed he thought he had a chance to keep Valtteri Bottas behind him after getting past the Mercedes driver on the first lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The pair started alongside each other on the second row of the grid and Leclerc slipped ahead into third place.

“I managed to get past him but without taking stupid risks,” said Leclerc, who previously said he would take more caution at the start this year following a series of first-lap collisions during 2020.

Leclerc admitted he thought the Mercedes driver might not be quick enough to pass him based on the pace he had shown earlier in the weekend.

“Before the race, you always try to imagine yourself and what were the fights that I would pick and the others that I wouldn’t,” Leclerc explained.

“Valtteri was a bit of a question mark because I think in second practice he was not as competitive as we would have expected him to be. So we had a hope of maybe keeping him behind, which was not the case in the race.”

Bottas got by the Ferrari on lap six. He went on to finish the race 22 seconds ahead of Leclerc, having lost 10 seconds with a slow mid-race pit stop and made an extra stop to fit fresh tyres and claim the fastest lap bonus point.

Nonetheless, Leclerc was pleased with the progress Ferrari showed in the first race with its revised SF21 chassis and new power unit.

“If I look at where we were last year, at the exact same place, there’s been a good progress,” he said.

“Surely we want to be fighting for the win very, very soon. But realistically and honestly, we’ve done a great job to catch that and to be now closer to McLaren at least, and fighting with them in the race. So let’s see in Imola.”

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19 comments on “Leclerc thought he might keep Bottas behind after first-lap pass”

  1. Sush Meerkat
    31st March 2021, 9:47

    How optimistic of you Charles

    1. It was a reasonable assessment given Bottas was off the pace in race mode during practices, and he looked less comfortable with the low rear downforce on the Mercedes. Getting past Bottas was the first part of Leclerc’s job, then, and he did that well. But Bottas’s pace was actually better than expected (even more so in the second stint).

  2. Leclerc ‘s optimism may be tempered by Ferraris progress. I think he is one of the top 4 or 5 drivers on the grid with only only a cigarette paper between them from day to day. A Ferrari podium is not out of the question this year I would think.

    1. Well, they managed it last year, surely this year should be easier, if anything happens to merc or red bull in some race ofc.

  3. The best Ferrari finished 32sec (22+10) behind the worst Mercedes. An average gap of 0.5sec on race pace.
    But looking at the gap to the best Mercedes, it was a full minute. An average of 1sec per lap. Better than last year’s 1.5sec, but still way off.
    They must be focused on 2022. I hope? When is that new superfast engine coming? Summer break?

    1. The best Ferrari finished 32sec (22+10) behind the worst Mercedes.

      If looking at @Only Facts! it should probably be ’55s (22+10+23)’ due to “and made an extra stop to fit fresh tyres“.
      Now we’re getting close to 1s per lap to #2.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        31st March 2021, 13:38

        To me, Mercedes and Red Bull looked dominant over the rest of the field, but pretty equal with each other on race day.

        None of the other cars were remotely close. Just think, Bottas lost around 4 seconds behind Leclerc to begin with, then a further 8 in the pit stop, then he had yet another pit stop and still beat Norris by 6 seconds. Had Bottas’s race gone to plan, it is very likely that the next best car will have been 40 seconds behind. If Mclaren are that far off, Ferrari are not looking good. But qualifying interestingly seemed closer. But then I don’t disagree with those who think leclerc may have the best one lap pace. He just isn’t always consistent with it.

        1. @thegianthogweed Q3 pace vs race pace is always a compromise. One that Leclerc favors heavily on the Q3 side and just accepts that he moves down the order on race day.

          Although he actually seems to dream that he could keep Bottas behind.

          1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            31st March 2021, 20:00

            @f1osaurus

            Something I found interesting this race is that Bottas didn’t have his usual hesitation during the overtakes that he often does. On another note, it looks like the cars can drive in dirty air much better this year. Bottas didn’t seem to struggle behind Leclerc or Perez. Leclerc may have had a slower car, but did have better tyres. Perez admittedly was at the end of his stint, but even with a huge advantage, Bottas often does struggle here. Canada 2019 year was an example where he was stuck behind Ricciardo for ages. He just seemed to have more confidence this time out.

          2. @thegianthogweed
            I would say that Canada is quite a bit more difficult to overtake than in Bahrain, so the Ricciardo comparison isn’t perfect. It seems from drivers they are still complaining about dirty air just as much as last year, but we’ll need to see how it is in Imola where overtaking is much more difficult.
            And imo Bottas managing to pass a couple of cars that were a fair bit slower with DRS doesn’t really point to a change in his overtaking abilities. I am of the opinion where we’ve seen about as much as we are going to get from Bottas generally.

          3. Ben, while that’s probably true, he’s still nowhere in terms of race pace, so that doesn’t help him much imo.

          4. @esploratore Bottas was doing just fine on pace. Again, if he had not had that time lost in the pitstop he would have most likely finished in P2. Versus Verstappen in a faster car.

          5. @thegianthogweed True, Bottas seems to have more difficulty driving the car when i’s more tricky to handle, like when he’s close behind another car.

            I doubt the cars are that much easier to drive though. Verstappen was complaining plenty about how the performance took a nosedive after he caught up to Hamilton. And usually the Red Bull was actually better at driving in dirty air.

          6. @f1osaurus
            You really love using ‘probably’, and ‘if’ in your arguments.
            Point is, Bottas never looked like he could get close to second place. And with his propensity to dither about on overtaking, I think to say that ‘Bottas probably would’ve finished second’ is really fanciful thinking.
            I mean it’s what we see a lot from you, being a foaming-at-the-mouth Mercedes fan and all. You really need to get back in touch with reality, your prejudices blind you to what’s happening all the time. Then you come on here and act arrogantly, whilst not recognising your own stupidity and bias.

  4. Ferrari still lacks pace, compared with McLaren and even Alpha Tauri. Forget Mercedes & Redbull.

    Reply moderated
  5. Super weekend by Leclerc and great attitude

    1. Positively surprised by Ferrari’s pace. The way the company is run I personally feel it has no place in todays society. But like to see them in the mix on track given their history in the sport.

  6. He must know that just nonsense. Leclerc pretty much always moves quite a lot down the order during the race.

    Leclerc should focus a bit more on setting up his car for race pace. Sainz was going half a second per lap faster in the race (when he had free air).

    It’s cute that he gets P4 but if he loses say 3 tenths in Q3 and gains half a second per lap in the race, then he actually might manage to stay ahead of some cars in the race for a change.

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