Leclerc ‘confident’ – but expecting more pace from Mercedes in Baku
Mercedes may only have been able to get within 0.669s of Charles Leclerc’s leading time in Free Practice 2 in Baku – but the Ferrari driver didn’t believe that was the end of the story this weekend, predicting stronger pace from the Silver Arrows in both qualifying and the race.
Leclerc finished FP2 0.324s up on his team mate Sebastian Vettel, with Lewis Hamilton a further 0.345s behind. But with Friday’s running having been interrupted by a loose drain cover that saw the majority of Free Practice 1 scratched, Leclerc believed that, despite feeling “confident” around the 6.003km Baku track, further running in Azerbaijan would see Mercedes increasingly close the gap.
“I think we are pretty strong,” said Leclerc. “On the other hand, I’m absolutely sure that there’s a lot more to come from Mercedes. They were very quick on the long runs, so there’s no reason [to think] they are slow on the short runs. So I’m pretty sure tomorrow when they put everything together it’s going to be very tight.
“[But] I am confident with this track, the car felt good today and that’s all that matters.”
Vettel, too, was wary of Mercedes’ performance getting stronger as the weekend progressed, as Ferrari seek to arrest their rivals’ momentum in Baku following three consecutive one-twos for the Silver Arrows so far this year.
“I think it will be very close, but that's a good sign,” said Vettel. “I imagine Mercedes to be very fast, so if we can be close to them, that’s good.
“I think maybe tomorrow is the better day to make a final judgement, but I think overall [today] was okay. It felt good and it seemed to make sense by the looks of it – all the numbers seem to stack up so that’s a good sign… So let’s see tomorrow how fast we can be.”
Ferrari currently lie 57 points adrift of Mercedes in the constructors’ standings after just three races – and with that kind of gap, a first win in Baku for the Scuderia this weekend would be very welcome news in Maranello.