Leclerc: Ferrari simulations predicted “very strong” qualifying showing from Alfa Romeo

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The qualifying session at the Hungaroring was full of surprises—including two Alfa Romeos in the top ten, with Zhou Guanyu qualifying a career-best fifth, higher than both Ferrari drivers.

Although Ferrari recently brought an upgrade package to help bridge the gap between them and their closest rivals, their performance remains inconsistent across a race weekend.

Although he was satisfied with his lap, and didn’t report any issues with the car, Charles Leclerc only managed to qualify sixth, while Carlos Sainz failed to advance to Q3—a first for him this season.

Leclerc admitted that he expected Ferrari to be more competitive in the qualifying session, based on how the car performed out on track.

Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari

“Not [feeling] great, to be honest. Because my lap—I was really happy with my lap, and then you look at the board and you are P6. Yes, the margins are fine, it’s very close until P4, but then the top three is quite a lot ahead on a track like this. So, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

On paper, it looked like Hungary should suit the SF-23, but that hasn’t exactly translated to on-track performance. Leclerc suggested that the windy conditions may have affected the car, as its optimal operating window is quite narrow.

“Honestly, I think it’s still quite fast, but it’s still too peaky,”

“Whenever we’ve got qualifying where we’ve got a bit more wind, today, Silverstone was obviously extreme, but here also there are some corners that are very affected by the wind and today we were suffering a lot in those.

“So it’s still the same problem. We did some step forward, but the others don’t have that peakiness, and whenever we are in those conditions we are struggling more than others.

“At the end, one thing for sure is that tyre management will be everything tomorrow.”

“If we are doing a good job on that, then we can expect a good race; if we are struggling with that then we can expect a race looking in the mirrors.”

Asked whether he expects Ferrari to have tyre-related issues in the race, Leclerc admitted that he isn’t sure.

“Honestly, the tyre management in itself was pretty good this morning and yesterday. The pace, though, on the high fuel wasn’t great if you compare it to the Red Bull—but Red Bull is so far ahead that it’s difficult to compare. So we have no real comparison.

“So yeah, I’m not particularly concerned, but I’m obviously aware that this is going to be the thing we need to focus on tomorrow.”

He added that he was aware of teammate Sainz’s tyre struggles during qualifying.

“I think the medium, for some reason, we were struggling with warm-up. I also struggled on that, obviously a bit less than Carlos. We need to look at it, because it might be again linked to the peakiness of our car, and whenever we get a little bit out of the window we struggle more than the others.

“The hard was okay, okay-ish. We went through to Q2, which is the minimum, but it wasn’t great either.”

Meanwhile McLaren impressed yet again, with Lando Norris securing his second consecutive top three qualifying finish.

“Today, McLaren again is showing that they’ve done a general big step forward because on a track like this, compared to Silverstone, it’s completely different characteristics and they are very quick,” Leclerc commented.

“I feel like it’s very difficult to expect the pace of others from qualifying to race, from track to track. We’ve got surprises every weekend.”

The Ferrari driver will line up on the grid behind the likes of Mercedes, McLaren— and Alfa Romeo.

Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari

“I did not expect to have an Alfa Romeo in front of me for the race tomorrow, so I don’t know how they will be in the race,” Leclerc said.

“They were very strong, yesterday the team showed me the simulations of what we think they will be like, and honestly they were alright, the simulation ahead of today.

“And yesterday I was like, ‘yeah, but there might be something wrong in that and it might be a mistake,’ and they proved me wrong today because the team expected it.”

“Again, we have a lot of work to do. It’s very difficult to understand because of my knowledge, I haven’t checked, but I don’t think they had any particularly big upgrades for this weekend.

“But then from one weekend to the other, everybody’s changing, struggling one weekend and fast the other. So it’s very difficult to understand.”