Charles Leclerc was relieved his crash on the final lap of qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix sprint race did not cost him pole position.
In F1’s new sprint qualifying format, drivers are required to use the medium tyre compound for the first two phases, then switch to softs. Leclerc said he found it tricky to get the best out of the soft tyre in SQ3 having not run it earlier in the session.
“With the soft it was a little bit tricky because you’re getting jittery and we haven’t driven on these tyres since yesterday,” he said. “It’s not a long time ago, but the conditions are very different so it was behaving much differently.”
Leclerc was one of the last drivers running on the circuit when he crashed. His team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr was among those lapping behind him, and Leclerc apologised to his team on the radio for potentially compromising the other car’s lap.
He explained how the car got away from him when he crashed. “The rear overheated on the second lap,” said Leclerc. “I tried to push a bit more to gain some lap time as I was behind my first best lap time and I lost it in turn five at the end.
“It doesn’t have any consequence on qualifying. I don’t know about Carlos behind me so it’s a shame if he was improving. But I’m very happy with the first lap and now we have to confirm that in the race.”
Despite taking his second pole position in as many days, Leclerc isn’t expecting Ferrari to have significantly reduced their deficit to Red Bull in terms of race pace. He will start both this weekend’s races with the two Red Bulls immediately behind him.
“We’ll go for it but we need also to be realistic,” he said. “Until now we have been on the back foot in the race, especially the Red Bull seems to be a step ahead. So let’s see how it is.
“Hopefully we have a good surprise, I think we improved the car quite a bit, but today we’ll have more of an answer in the race to see where we are compared to them.”
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