Leclerc baffled by fluctuating Ferrari pace, as Vettel misses Q3 in final qualifying session in red
Charles Leclerc was baffled by his Ferrari's drop off in pace in the final segment of qualifying in Abu Dhabi, as any hopes he had of repeating his highly impressive P4 on the grid at the Sakhir Grand Prix melted away under the lights in Abu Dhabi.
Leclerc managed a stunning P3 in Q1 then P6 in Q2, before falling to ninth in Q3, and he was at a loss as to what had happened to his SF1000's speed.
Asked if he was disappointed, he replied: “Yes, I am. From Q1 to Q2 there was a nice progression but then in Q3 we lost out a little bit for some reason.
“I have no explanations yet but I couldn’t finish the last sector with the rear tyres and it’s a shame really, because before that it was going really well, but it is the way it is.”
The Monegasque driver was, however, buoyed by Ferrari’s performance in FP2 during their long-run practice, which should bode well for Sunday’s race.
“We have been quite competitive in FP2 even though it was not such a good long run because of the red flag [caused by Kimi Raikkonen’s retirement], but yeah it felt quite good, so let’s see tomorrow.
“I think the tyre temperature will be a big thing tomorrow as it always is here in Abu Dhabi, and hopefully we can manage them well,” he concluded.
Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel, in his final Ferrari qualifying appearance, failed to break into the top 10, ending up in 13th place, behind the Renaults of Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo – but he felt he maximised the SF1000’s potential as the sun went down over Yas Marina Circuit.
“I was pretty happy,” he said. “I think I had decent laps so it’s not like I thought there was a lot I could have done.”
Asked if the drop in temperatures from day to night affected his car’s balance, the four-time champion replied: “No, as I said, it was quite OK. When I tried to go faster it didn’t work, so yeah, reasonably happy.”
Vettel has never won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for Ferrari but did take three wins here for Red Bull. It looks unlikely that he’ll repeat the feat on Sunday, but the German has previous experience in sealing stellar Sunday recoveries at Yas Marina - he finished fourth from 15th for Ferrari in 2015.