Leclerc ends Friday on top but hopes for 'another step' as he braces for Verstappen challenge
Charles Leclerc topped FP2 on Friday in Azerbaijan, and while the Ferrari driver was pleased with the step his team had made from the first practice session, he said there would be more to come from team mate Carlos Sainz and rival Max Verstappen.
Leclerc was just over a tenth behind leader Sergio Perez in FP1 but ended up a quarter of a second ahead of the Red Bull driver at the top of the FP2 leaderboard. The Monegasque driver was satisfied with the Scuderia’s work on a “hard” Friday at Baku.
“We’ve had a hard Friday because overall I think we’ve improved quite a lot from FP1 to FP2 but there’s still another step that we have to do from today to tomorrow. I also feel Iike in FP2 nobody really put a lap in and neither did we – actually I think Max and Carlos didn’t actually improve on the softs, so there’s still quite a lot of question marks.
“I think the positive to take away from today is that the tyre degradation was good and the race pace was very strong, so that is good.”
FP2 also saw Leclerc complain of a loss of power over the radio, but he was swiftly reassured by the pit wall. Afterwards, he explained: “Actually it was no power unit problems, it’s just me that forgot that I had changed something, which obviously made me lose power. But yes, nothing weird.”
Asked if he could take back the championship lead this weekend, facing a nine-point deficit to Verstappen, Leclerc replied: “Well I hope so. Whether it will be this weekend or not, I don’t know, but if we do everything perfect I’m confident that we’ll take it back at one point.”
Team mate Sainz finished fourth then fifth in the respective practice sessions on Friday, having had to abort a flying lap in FP2. The Spaniard however said the team made gains from FP1 to FP2 and said he felt much more comfortable as the day went on.
“Yes, it was a tough session, a tough couple of sessions, like always here in Baku on Friday, getting used to the speeds, the walls, the bumps. With these new cars you can feel a lot more the bumps and the challenges of this circuit.
“But it was a good day, I think we made good steps as a team, we moved in the right direction with the car and we certainly felt more competitive in FP2 than in FP1, together with feeling a bit more at home, so we’ll get there.”
However, Sainz said porpoising was “particularly bad” for him.
“Well, it is certainly something I’m looking into because today for some reason I struggled quite a bit with this phenomenon that hasn’t been there in the last few races, and it looked particularly bad on my side of the garage.
“So, it’s something I need to dig into the data with the engineers because it is something really annoying round here, it was taking out quite a bit of the confidence on the straights and on the braking, so hopefully for tomorrow we can solve it.”