Leclerc scared by his own aggressive approach

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Following his brilliant performance in the qualifying session for the Sakhir Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc expressed his delight over his stunning lap that saw him grab the fourth starting position for tomorrow’s race.

The weekend started in a rather difficult fashion for the Monegasque after he was forced to sit out the entire second practice with driveshaft problems. Although he could make up for the lost time in the third practice, Ferrari’s weaknesses regarding its engine and rear instability were expected to make the Sakhir Grand Prix to a very difficult weekend for the Scuderia.

However, Leclerc was not distracted by the lack of running and the underpowered car and put in a brilliant drive to take his fourth P4 starting position in 2020. The 23-year-old revealed that he was constantly over the limit, applying an ambitious and aggressive approach in terms of driving.

“I’m so happy because it was kind of a bet to go out at the beginning of the session and not go out again. I don't like to say it's a perfect lap, you can always do something better," Leclerc said.

"But honestly, everything I wanted to do, I did it. I was scared because I broke very, very late into the first corner, but managed to make the corner anyway, and had a good exit too. I think I got a snap in Turn 4, and then I thought oh my God, I don't know if the tyres are going to last until the end of the lap.

"I did such a huge step from FP3 to quali in terms of driving, using a lot more of the track in entry on the kerb on the right [exiting Turn 8], looking at Pierre Gasly's onboard actually, so thanks Pierre! And the last corner, which I've been struggling with the whole quali, this one I finally managed to do it well also in my last lap. I'm extremely happy."

Leclerc opted for a single Q3 run in the qualifying session. That was rather unusual, but the Monegasque explained that he simply ran out of fresh soft tyres for the last qualifying segment.

“But to be honest, for different reasons I wanted to go early: for traffic because I expected it to be a mess at the end of the run, also to not wait too much before going out again. I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do in the car, and I managed to do everything on my lap, so I’m extremely happy to be starting P4 tomorrow.”

“Unfortunately by missing out FP2 I didn’t do any race runs, so I’m going a bit into the unknown,” said Leclerc. “But I’ll give everything and see where we end up.”

Atfer spinning on multiple occasions in yesterday’s second practice, Sebastian Vettel was more delighted with the behaviour of his car. However, it was still not enough for the German to fight his way into the last qualifying segment.

Just as his team mate, he was also eager to use the medium compound in the middle part of the session to secure himself a strategic advantage, but a late charge on Pirelli’s red-walled tyres was not enough either. The result leaves Vettel with the 13th starting position for tomorrow’s Sakhir Grand Prix, but it gives the German, at least, a free choice of tyre for the start.

"I generally had a good feeling driving the car today so I don’t really know what went wrong. Maybe on the straights I was losing a bit as well as in the middle sector. I was confident after Q1 but then we didn’t make it. I don’t know if this could be related to the power unit change. For sure my mechanics did everything well as the car was fine to drive.

„Taking care of the tyres will be difficult tomorrow but it could be the key to a good race. We will have a free choice of tyre for the start and we will see what we can do."

After missing the previous two rounds, Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto returned to the race track. The Italian was content with the performance of his drivers, and also praised the work done by the mechanics who needed to change the power unit on Vettel's car in just two hours' time.

"Charles produced a brilliant lap to equal his best qualifying performances of the season. Fourth place was down to his amazing talent, all the more extraordinary considering he missed almost all of the second free practice session. It’s just a bit of shame that he couldn’t make the cut out of Q2 on the Mediums, as this would have put him in a better position for the race, but he tried his very best.

"Sebastian missed some track time at the end of FP3 with a technical problem and he felt much more comfortable with the car than yesterday, but he couldn’t make the cut out of Q2 in a session where just hundredths of a second could see you gain or lose places. The team at the track should be congratulated on doing a great job in changing Seb’s PU very quickly as a precautionary move after FP3 and also for the way they prepared for and executed what was a very complex qualifying session," said the Swiss-Italian.