Charles Leclerc

Leclerc hoping poor pace on used tyres is “not a negative sign” for the race

Formula 1

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Charles Leclerc claimed a place on the front row of the grid but is concerned he may be vulnerable over a race stint.

The Ferrari came alive on fresh tyres at the end of Q3, but his previous lap on used rubber earlier in the same session was almost a second slower.

Those laps were set on the soft tyre compound. Teams are expected to prefer the medium and hard tyres for today’s race, but Leclerc is unsure whether the drop-off in performance they saw on worn rubber will be as significant on the more durable compounds.

“Our car is very peaky,” he explained. “On the scrubbed tyres… I was behind everybody basically. Then you put new tyres on the car and suddenly it becomes great and I was feeling much more at ease with the car.

“The lap came together nicely, apart from the last corner where I over-pushed. But I think this is a tendency for everybody on this track: You arrive with very overheated tyres so I don’t think there was much to gain anyway on that lap.

“But we gained like crazy from scrubbed to new, much more than everybody else. I hope this is not a negative sign for tomorrow when we have to do long runs but I’m sure we will do a good job.”

Leclerc said the team’s pace has been hard to read this weekend and passing through the first two stages of qualifying hadn’t been straightforward for him. His team mate, Carlos Sainz Jnr, was eliminated in the first round.

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“It’s very, very strange,” Leclerc admitted. “In FP3 everything felt really good but we were just super-slow. It’s a bit difficult as a driver to then pinpoint something, because you just have not enough grip to go faster.

“I think it confirms a little bit our whole season, that we have a very peaky car. Whenever we are in the right window, that’s great. Whenever we fall out of that window a little bit then it has huge consequences. And today and this weekend overall has been like that.”

However he was relieved to produce a competitive time when he needed it in Q3 to secure a front-row start for the fifth race in a row.

“Last weekend felt like a really, really good lap, this quali felt like a really good lap as well,” said Leclerc. “It was a bit of a surprise this one, because in Q1 and Q2 I was on the limit of making it through – not on the limit, but it was quite tight and I was actually worried to go through Q1 and Q2.

“But then in Q3 I managed to put a good lap together and everything felt good, so I’m really happy with that, because I definitely did not expect to be on the front row this weekend. Considering how much we struggled – FP2 was really good but then FP1 and FP3, I didn’t do FP1, but as a team, I think we struggled massively – it’s a good surprise.”

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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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