Charles Leclerc will line up fourth for the Bahrain Grand Prix after an impressive qualifying lap, but after the session the Ferrari driver said he expected his fight to be with Pierre Gasly behind him rather than all three. first, when the race begins. Sunday.
Ferrari entered this first race of 2021 looking for a marked improvement over last year, when it had suffered its worst season in four decades. And Leclerc’s performance in qualifying seemed to indicate that they had progressed as he came one tenth behind Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in Q3, while Gasly was still 0.130s behind Leclerc in the AlphaTauri.
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When asked if he was confident about his chances in the race, as Ferrari could also keep up a competitive pace on the long journeys, Leclerc replied: “Yes… but it’s going to be difficult. I think AlphaTauri is very strong in the race pace with what they showed on Friday, and they start on the middle [tyres] also, so it will be very difficult to keep them behind.
“I don’t think the first three are still accessible for us, but with a little more work, I hope we can fight with them soon,” he added.
Leclerc showed his Ferrari’s pace in free practice by finishing fifth fastest in FP3 – our analysis placing Scuderia fourth in the standings on long race pace. But he urged Ferrari not to get carried away by this and his fourth place in qualifying in the limelight, with new teammate Carlos Sainz in P8.
“On the quali [pace], now we know, and it surprises us. We didn’t expect to be here. But I have to say that we have to keep our feet on the ground and this is only the first qualifying of the year in very strange conditions, so I think we should be happy as a team to measure that we did compared to the last one. year.
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“If we looked at last year we were fighting to get into Q2 and we didn’t make it, I think. So this year being P4 on the grid is awesome.
Compared to qualifying in 2020, Ferrari lost more than half a second – 0.529s – this year after mandatory car rule changes, but it remains to be seen how their racing pace was affected.