Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel have braced themselves for a potentially “difficult” Hungarian Grand Prix, after Formula 1 rivals Red Bull Racing and Mercedes AMG Motorsport were convincingly faster in qualifying.
Scuderia Ferrari had to be content with the second and third rows of the grid for Sunday’s race, with Leclerc one place ahead of Vettel in fourth.
The Monégasque driver ended qualifying 0.471 seconds adrift of Max Verstappen‘s pole position time at the Hungaroring, with Vettel a further 0.028s behind.
Leclerc also suffered a crash in Qualifying 1 on the exit of the final corner, causing slight damage to his rear wing and rear crash structure – emergency repairs had to be overlooked by the FIA‘s technical delegate Jo Bauer.
He described his accident as “unnecessary”, following a race-ending crash at the German Grand Prix last Sunday while in contention for the race victory.
“On the one hand, I am happy with my lap in Q3,” said Leclerc.
“On the other, the mistake I made in Q1 was unnecessary and I will make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
“The team did a great job to get the car back in shape for us to go out in Q2.
“I believe that we got the best result we could today. So far this weekend, we have been lacking grip.
“Our competitors are strong, especially in the corners, and it will be a difficult race for us tomorrow.”
Ferrari was generally fastest in sector 1, the part of the lap dictated mostly by outright power unit performance, but fell away in the second and third sectors.
Vettel said that the qualifying result came as little surprise and Ferrari’s lack of downforce meant that the package was always going to struggle in the more technical stages of the lap.
The German hopes for warmer conditions in Sunday’s race, otherwise Ferrari could face a long afternoon against Red Bull and Mercedes.
“Today went pretty much as we expected and reflects what we have seen in the last few races,” said Vettel.
“Our car is very quick down the straights but it’s not the best through the corners and that means we struggle to keep the tyres alive right to the end of the lap when we are trying for a quick time.
“You can see that from the fact we are quickest in sector 1 and then we suffer over the rest of the lap.
“In fact, it will be a very difficult race in terms of tyre management and given the characteristics of our car, it would suit us to see high temperatures tomorrow, because we would then be able to put our competitors under pressure.
“If that’s not the case, then it will be a one stop race and it’s less likely that we can be in with a chance.
“Overtaking is difficult here, but not impossible, so let’s wait and see how things go tomorrow.”
Team principal Mattia Binotto said that Leclerc’s approach to the final corner may have been affected by his crash, but believes that Ferrari is on the right path in terms of developing the SF90 – after aerodynamic upgrades were brought to Hungary.
“Here in Hungary, we were keen to confirm our progress and see where we stood compared to those ahead of us,” said Binotto.
“The gap is closer than we might have expected and to a certain extent, that’s encouraging.
“We therefore had further proof today that we are on the right path in terms of our development of the SF90.
“Seb’s qualifying was straightforward, but Charles’ was slightly compromised by the accident in Q1.
“We changed the rear wing, but there were still some damaged parts left on the car and maybe he also lost a bit of confidence in that final corner.”