Charles Leclerc felt he got as much out of his updated SF1000 as he could during Qualifying for the Portuguese Grand Prix on Saturday, and he was rewarded with fourth place on the grid.
The Scuderia Ferrari driver also managed to get through to the top ten shootout on the medium tyre, meaning he should not have the same kind of tyre issues he suffered last time out in the Eifel Grand Prix where he struggled for performance with the soft tyre in the early stages.
Leclerc reckons his starting position and his choice of starting tyre will hopefully put him in a position for a strong result on Sunday afternoon, with the Monegasque racer eyeing his first podium finish since the British Grand Prix in July.
“I am very happy with my lap and I think we managed to get everything out of the car today,” said Leclerc. “Congratulations to the whole team for the great job they have done, both in Maranello and here at the track.
“The latest updates we introduced here have also added a bit of performance to our car and the last few qualifying sessions show we are heading in the right direction. Already yesterday, I had a good feeling about Saturday, while there are still various things we need to look at before the race.
“But I am very happy to have got through Q2 on the Medium tyre, because I’m sure it’s the ideal tyre for the start of the race. In Germany we suffered on the Soft tyres in the low temperatures, while here it’s not as cold and we have the Mediums. I need to get a good start and if I manage that, I can be in the fight for a strong result.”
“I struggled a lot to put the laps together” – Sebastian Vettel
Whereas Leclerc was able to get through to Q3 on the medium tyre, team-mate Sebastian Vettel was not able to follow suit, and the German struggled to fifteenth on the grid on Saturday.
Vettel says he was unable to get a decent lap together when it mattered, with his issues not helped by his failure to get his tyres to the optimum temperature they needed to be. He attempted two runs in Q2, both on the medium tyre, but ultimately, he was nowhere near where he needed to be to advance into Q3.
“I’m not happy with today as I struggled a lot to put the laps together,” said the German. “It was very difficult to get the tyres to work and find a good rhythm. In practice I was happy with the Mediums but in quali I had too many issues, probably because of the difficulty of getting the tyres up to temperature.
Starting at the back of the grid is not ideal, as the traffic at this circuit will probably be a big problem. However it will be a similar situation to what we have experienced at some of the recent races. Unfortunately there’s not much we can change on the car and we will have to do our best from the back.”
“This afternoon’s qualifying went well” – Laurent Mekies
Laurent Mekies, the Sporting Director at Ferrari, was pleased to see Leclerc qualifying so high up the grid, and it was also pleasing to see the updates the team have brought to Portugal working well on the SF1000.
Mekies reckons the updates have delivered a bit more performance to the car this weekend, and he felt Leclerc was able to make the most of the updates to qualify on the second row of the grid. He also felt Vettel could have got into Q3 with the medium tyres had he managed to get a decent run in Q2.
“This afternoon’s qualifying went well, with Charles securing the same position as at the previous round, albeit in very different weather,” said Mekies. “We brought some more updates here for the SF1000 and, from what we have seen so far, they appear to have delivered a bit more performance.
“We know it’s nothing major, but it’s enough to be fully in the very close fight for the places right behind the top three drivers. The important thing is that it shows our development work is going in the right direction, for the end of this season, but more importantly for the next.
“The team worked well, trying to give the drivers everything they needed on a difficult track that we have never raced on before. For that reason and also because the weather forecast is uncertain, there are a lot of question marks over tomorrow’s race.
“Considering our difficulties on the softest compound, we aimed to get out of Q2 on the Mediums and we managed it and that will be an important factor in terms of strategy. Sebastian was right on the limit after his first run and in these situations, the driver’s feel for the car is vital, which is why he stuck with the Mediums for his second run in Q2, but it was not enough to improve and so he will start from the eighth row.”