Charles Leclerc admitted Qualifying for the Eifel Grand Prix went better than expected after the Monegasque racer managed to set a time good enough for a place on the second row of the grid at the Nürburgring.
The Scuderia Ferrari driver was positive after beating Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Alexander Albon to fourth on the grid, albeit by just 0.012 seconds, with Leclerc happy with how his SF1000 was working around the German track.
He also admitted he liked the way the weekend had been condensed into just one practice session before Qualifying due to the weather playing havoc on Friday, but he does concede it leaves them short of information when it comes to long runs, which could backfire on Sunday.
“This qualifying result is possibly better than we expected, especially in these cold conditions, but we brought some updates here, which maybe made a small difference in the right direction, which is nice to see,” said Leclerc. “I am happy about the way we are working and how things went today.
“I quite liked the fact we had just one FP session and went straight into qualifying. We made the most of the situation, even if we don’t have much information about the long runs with high fuel. Especially in Q3 there was quite a strong wind, which made the car unpredictable.
“For tomorrow, we are all a bit in unknown territory, but one thing I know is that it’ll be important to manage these soft tyres because they are pretty difficult in terms of graining. It’s going to be a tricky race but that’s what makes this weekend interesting.”
“I was really struggling with the car in the first sector” – Sebastian Vettel
Whereas Leclerc was setting times good enough for fourth, team-mate Sebastian Vettel’s torrid season continued as he found himself eliminated from Qualifying in Q2, with the German set to start eleventh on the grid on Sunday.
Vettel admitted he was struggling with his car, particularly in the first sector, and the gap between him and his team-mate was all-but determined in that sector of the Nürburgring racetrack. He at least goes into Sunday’s race with the same car as Leclerc, and he hopes for some luck on race day to move him forward and into the points.
“I tried everything, but I was really struggling with the car in the first sector and I was sliding a lot,” said Vettel. “It was a shame that we couldn’t make it to Q3 even if I was feeling ok in the car and I think the pace was decent. I hope that with the free choice of tyres, we will have a bit more luck tomorrow.
“I only ran the upgrades in the afternoon, as we had very little free practice time and therefore had to make a comparison using the two cars running different configurations, but I don’t think they made a big difference.
“Today I’m happy for the fans because the weather was better, and they finally were able to see some cars on track.”
“This was our best qualifying since the mid-point of the season” – Laurent Mekies
Laurent Mekies, the Sporting Director at Ferrari, felt Qualifying at the Nürburgring was the best they’ve had since the mid-point of the season, with Leclerc in particular earning praise for his efforts to get onto the second row of the grid.
Ferrari brought minor upgrades to Germany, and on top of those they brought to Russia two weeks ago, it appears that they’ve been able to unlock some of the potential from the SF1000, which has meant they were able to challenge for a place in the upper regions of the top ten in Qualifying.
“This was our best qualifying since the mid-point of the season, not just in terms of the result, but also because of the overall performance,” said Mekies. “Charles did a fantastic job: he was soon at ease with the track and got consistently quicker, ending up equalling his best Saturday performance of the season, getting everything out of his SF1000.
“Sebastian struggled a bit and could not make the cut out of Q2, but at least he gets a free choice of tyre for the first stint of the race.
“The minor updates we brought here and two weeks ago in Sochi have given us a bit more performance: nothing exceptional but when the gaps are so small, it doesn’t take much to make a significant difference.
“The most important thing is that all these developments indicate that all the hard work taking place in Maranello is going in the right direction, which is a good thing for the final part of this season but especially for the next one.”
Mekies says there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding performance levels when it comes to race day at the Nürburgring, after none of the teams were able to get any of their usual running on Friday due to the weather conditions surrounding the German circuit.
“The outcome of tomorrow’s race is even more uncertain than ever, as all the teams have far less data than usual, given that it’s the first time in seven years that we have raced at this very nice track, added to which is the fact there was no running yesterday due to bad weather,” said Mekies. “Today’s result means we can go for different strategies with our two drivers and we will try to make the most of any opportunity.
“Finally, I’d like to congratulate our reserve driver, Antonio Giovinazzi who secured his best qualifying result of the season, which is no doubt a welcome confidence boost for him.”