Leclerc calls P2 ‘bittersweet’ despite ‘best quali’ of 2023 in Austria
0.048s – that was all that stood between Charles Leclerc and pole-sitter Max Verstappen in Friday’s thrilling qualifying session at the Red Bull Ring, with those two now set to face off in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Ferrari put pedal to the metal at their Maranello base to fast-track upgrades originally intended for Hungary and bring them to Austria.
And those changes to the floor and front wing looked to have paid dividends, with Leclerc and team mate Carlos Sainz claiming P2 and P3 respectively in Friday’s qualifying – with Saturday’s Sprint Shootout and Sprint, and Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix, to follow.
Despite that, Leclerc couldn’t mask his disappointment at failing to follow up his solitary pole from Azerbaijan at the Red Bull Ring.
“I’m never happy when I’m second, I’m only happy when I’m first,” he smiled ruefully. “Today we missed pole position by very little, but to be honest, we also need to be realistic and looking at our season, this is probably the best quali we’ve had, apart from Baku of course where we were ahead of everyone.
“The team has done an incredible job trying to bring these upgrades as early as possible into the season and I think this has helped us so far. Now we need to confirm that in the race. But it’s bittersweet: we’re very close to Max but just not enough, which is frustrating.”
On the other side of the garage, Sainz was also rueful – in his case about a decision to play it safe by Ferrari in Q2, after a number of drivers saw fast laps deleted for track limit violations.
Asked if he was disappointed with P3, Sainz replied: “A little bit, but I was also a bit thrown off by track limits in Q2.
“I actually had to run again when I was okay with track limits, but we played it safe, we used an extra set, which maybe threw me off a bit and it was not ideal.
“But overall I was feeling strong with the car, fast all day, which was a good carry-over from Canada and now we can focus on putting another strong day together tomorrow. But at least for Sunday, P3, I think it’s a good place to start.”
Sainz will now pray for the forecast rain to arrive for Saturday’s Sprint action, the Spaniard now without a new set of softs to call upon if he makes it to SQ3 – while Leclerc vowed to “give it all as always” to try and maximise his points haul in the Sprint, which awards points from P1 (eight points) to P8 (one point).