Ferrari drivers bullish on Styrian GP race pace, despite falling ‘quite far’ short of matching rivals McLaren in qualifying
Neither Charles Leclerc nor Carlos Sainz could hide their disappointment at achieving just P7 and P12 on the grid for the Styrian Grand Prix – especially with chief McLaren rival Lando Norris set to start the race from P3. But despite the Saturday setback, both Ferrari drivers fancied their chances of getting after Norris in the race on Sunday.
It’s been an experimental weekend for Ferrari at the Red Bull Ring, after a poor French Grand Prix that saw tyre issues leave Sainz and Leclerc 11th and 16th at the flag.
But after Friday practice showed Ferrari with a decent advantage in long run pace over McLaren, Leclerc said he was confident for the race after taking seventh on the grid – even if he admitted that the gap of 0.352s to Norris (who qualified P4 but benefits from a penalty for Valtteri Bottas) around the short Austrian track had been an eye-opener.
“Personally I’m very happy about the lap because I put everything together,” said Leclerc. “But on the other hand, once I’m looking at the gaps between Lando and myself, it’s quite a bit on a track like this.
“We’ve been struggling a bit more this weekend, especially on the quali pace that is normally our strength. We’ve also focused a bit more on race pace, doing more long runs in free practice to try and understand the car more in those situations and hopefully tomorrow it will pay off and we’ll see that we are a bit quicker in the race runs compared to France.
“I obviously expected more than a P7 but on the other hand the race pace was very, very good yesterday so we didn't want to sacrifice too much of the race pace to be better in qualifying today. P7 was, I think, the best result we could do today. And we'll go from there tomorrow.”
If Leclerc was disappointed with P7, that was nothing compared to team mate Sainz, who failed to make it out of Q2 for the second time this season – but who was also hoping that, unlike at Paul Ricard, he could count on some decent race pace on Sunday.
“Honestly we didn’t expect to be so far out in the short run,” said Sainz. “I think it's pretty clear that this circuit is just not suiting us very well. We've been fighting to get through Q3 and fighting to be in the top 10 every practice session, so you can just see that the lap time is not coming as easily as in Paul Ricard.
“But I think the long run pace is positive compared to Paul Ricard,” added Sainz. “And hopefully we can have a cleaner, clearer race than Paul Ricard. But we are honestly starting a bit out of position and I hope we can at least revert the tendency of the last few races and go forward in the race.”
Going into the Styrian Grand prix, Ferrari trail McLaren by 16 points in the constructors’, after their point-less run last time out in France.