“Struggled to rotate the car” — Leclerc analyses scruffy F1 Australian GP qualifying

Photo Credit: Scuderia Ferrari
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Topping the timing charts in FP2 and FP3, Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc qualified only P5 for the Formula One Australian Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc will start Sunday’s race from P4 as a result of Sergio Perez of Red Bull Racing being penalized with a 3-place grid drop for impeding Nico Hulkenberg during Q1.

Both the Ferraris, especially Leclerc, looked competitive and favourites for pole after the the practice sessions, but the performance dwindled away in qualifying — with Carlos Sainz qualifying P2, not managing pole either.

The Monégasque driver admitted that their struggles started earlier in the day in FP3. After dominating second practice, things fell away as conditions changed on Saturday in Melbourne.

“I think the issue started unfortunately quite a bit early. Already in FP3, I started losing the feeling but I was quite confident that I would find it back in the qualifying — I did not.”

Leclerc went into detail, explaining the issue which put an end to his seven front-row starts streak, “The front — I struggled to rotate the car in the first two sectors, and then in the last run I decided to go very aggressive with the front wing and then I lost the rear massively. So yeah, all in all, not a clean quali.

However, the race pace of SF–24 still seemed promising as Leclerc wants to shift his focus to tomorrow.

“I wasn’t really happy with the feeling of the car, but tomorrow it’s a long race — there are four DRS zones, and from now on I’ll focus on that to try and maximise the result from where we start.”

When asked about the possibility of taking the fight to Red Bulls ahead, Leclerc stated that the Milton Keynes-based team had more in their car than what the Scuderia had initially anticipated.

“First of all, I think they had more margin than what we thought because from turn 7 to turn 9 today, when they went flat with the engine it was much faster than what we expected, so I think tomorrow they will have a very strong race pace.”

Charles Leclerc expressed that the team will concentrate on themselves, “We will focus on ourselves, trying to maximise the points on our side is crucial.”

In an interview with Sky Sports F1, Fred Vasseur, the Team Principal of Scuderia Ferrari, was asked about Leclerc’s qualifying. He found it hard to point fingers at the driver as the performance deficit to Red Bull still exists.

“I think there’s still a gap with Red Bull but if we want to try to catch up with them, there’s no other way than to push the extreme.”

“That’s what Charles did and we cannot criticise him for doing that.”