Leclerc says it was ‘kind of the plan’ for Ferrari to miss Q3, as Sainz loses out on top 10 spot by 0.006s
Neither Ferrari driver made it into the top 10 shootout in qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix – with Charles Leclerc admitting that although he was disappointed with their pace in quali trim, getting knocked out in Q2 was 'kind of' the strategy for the Scuderia.
Leclerc starts 12th for Sunday's race, one place behind his team mate Carlos Sainz, but maintained that it was at least partly Ferrari's intention to miss out on Q3 to ensure they will have a free choice of tyres with which to start the Grand Prix – even if he was crestfallen to have been beaten by George Russell at the Red Bull Ring, the Brit claiming a Q3 spot for the first time as a Williams driver.
"It was kind of the plan to not go to Q3 to be honest because we wanted to have a free choice for tomorrow, but on the other hand I’m a bit disappointed; obviously the best would be to go to Q3 on the medium [tyre], which Williams managed to do with George which is very impressive, and that’s what leaves me a bit disappointed today.
"To be behind them [Williams] on a medium is not great," he conceded.
Meanwhile, asked if he was surprised that Russell made it to Q3 at his expense, Sainz pointed to Russell's performance in last weekend's Styrian GP that saw the Williams driver run eighth until his car sprung a power unit issue.
"No, because he beat us last week – at least me, he beat me – so Williams is not a slow car this weekend," replied Sainz. "He was running P8 before retiring, I did a few laps behind him, and it was impossible to pass, so good job to George, for sure, he’s doing a good job, but it’s not like a Williams is much slower than us.
"If anything, in quali, it [the Williams] definitely looks like the quicker package this weekend," he added.
But Sainz was more frustrated that he lost out by just 0.006s to the Williams driver and was left behind in Q2.
"I think I was on it for the whole quali and [to be eliminated] by six-thousandths [of a second], I’m not super happy. Yes it’s a shame, but we have good race pace tomorrow and the points are given tomorrow. So let’s wait and see for tomorrow," he added.
Ferrari are just 12 points behind McLaren in the championship, but Lando Norris starts on the front row – and Daniel Ricciardo starts just behind the Prancing Horses in 13th – on Sunday.