Leclerc: McLaren and Red Bull were hiding their pace

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Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc says that his team failed to achieve its targets after main rivals McLaren and Red Bull only showed their true pace in qualifying.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc led the way on the opening day, setting the benchmark both in the first and the second practice session. Although he looked strong in the final practice and the opening part of qualifying, he was unable to match Red Bull's and McLaren's performance in the crucial last qualifying segment.

The Monegasque driver praised Ferrari's efforts that saw the team introduce a heavily-upgraded car for their first of two home races. However, he also conceded that Ferrari were surprised by their main rivals, McLaren and Red Bull's pace after the practice sessions had indicated that the Scuderia would be able to challenge for pole position.

"We didn’t achieve our target today and we have to look in to where we can improve for the upcoming races, given that in the past few we have had the most margin for improvement in the first sector during qualifying. Our competitors seem to have been holding back on their full potential until today and their step was bigger than ours from yesterday to today.

"Our upgrade package is working as expected and it will take a few sessions to find the optimal window where we can extract the most performance. Our strength this year has been our race pace and we will give everything in the race tomorrow to make our tifosi proud," concluded Leclerc.

His team-mate Carlos Sainz struggled for pace compared to Leclerc all through the weekend, having encountered issues on Pirelli's soft tyres. The Spaniard only finished fifth, but a grid-drop penalty for Oscar Piastri will see him move up the grid by a spot.

"We knew that coming here it would be very tight. I struggled to be consistent with the Soft and didn’t do my best Quali to be honest, but we are still in a decent position to fight tomorrow and although overtaking in Imola is not easy, it can also be a race full of opportunities and we need to be fully focused.

"We’ll fight right to the chequered flag to put on a great show for our tifosi and hopefully thank them for their support with a good team result," stated Sainz.

Expanding on Ferrari's day on home turf, team boss Frederic Vasseur said: "We knew it would be a tough and tight session, where one tenth could have made the difference for many places and it was the case. Unfortunately today we were at the back of that “one-tenth” group.

"Overall it was quite a strange qualifying: we were competitive in the practice sessions and also this afternoon until Q3, where we did not progress as expected. We cannot be happy with the final outcome as here overtaking is quite difficult and I would have preferred to have been further up the grid, but we also have to consider that the gap between us and McLaren is very tight.

"The most important day is tomorrow when we will be looking to score as many points as possible. Last year we were used to having good Saturdays and then struggling a bit on the Sunday and this season so far it has generally been the opposite. Looking at the race pace it seems that we are quite ok with it and I hope we can give our tifosi an interesting race. They have supported us come what may and they deserve a good result."