‘It would have been close’ – Leclerc explains Q3 tactics as he trades pole shot for improved race strategy


Charles Leclerc has made clear that not completing a second run during the final phase of qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix was intentional, rather than there being any technical issues inside the Ferrari garage.

After low-key practice showings on Friday and Saturday, Leclerc emerged as a pole position threat by topping Q2 and trailing Red Bull driver Max Verstappen by just a tenth of a second at the end of the opening Q3 runs.

READ MORE: Verstappen beats Perez to pole for 2023 opener in Bahrain GP qualifying thriller

But just as drivers were gearing up for their second attempts, Leclerc jumped out of his car and watched from the sidelines while Verstappen strengthened his grip on pole and Sergio Perez made it a Red Bull one-two.

Leclerc however said post-qualifying that “there wasn’t any issue”, and he instead opted to save a fresh set of tyres for Sunday’s Grand Prix – where degradation amid the desert heat will play a decisive role in the outcome of the race.

He said: “I think we were in the fight for pole, which was a good surprise, to be honest, because I did not expect that after testing and after the free practice, which were a little bit difficult.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 04: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle

Leclerc will start just behind the two Red Bull drivers when the lights go out in Bahrain on Sunday

“We managed to find that pace for the quali lap, which was great, but we have to keep in mind that in the race run we seem to be a little bit on the back foot compared to Red Bull.

“I think we are in a better place starting third with new tyres, than starting first with old [tyres] or a bit further. I don’t know if we would have gotten pole, but it would’ve been close.”

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Leclerc described Ferrari’s race pace as “a bit of a weakness” heading into the season opener, but was nonetheless excited by the condensed nature of the battle at the front.

“I hope it will also be like that in the race runs – it was very close. Aston Martin was really quick, Mercedes also was really quick at some point in qualifying,” he commented.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 04: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving (55) the Ferrari SF-23 on track during

Carlos Sainz locked out the second row as the Ferraris start behind the Red Bulls on Sunday

“We are much closer than what we expected, which is looking good for the future. I think it makes Formula 1 more exciting, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the races.”

In the other Ferrari, Sainz lamented struggles in the second and third sectors of the Sakhir circuit en route to P4, though was pleased to recover from a tricky Friday that included a wild spin.

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“Honestly, I’ve been struggling all weekend since Friday, but today I managed to come back a little bit and I managed to put together a better lap and a better package going into quali. Obviously it’s not ideal, but it’s good progress from where I was coming yesterday,” he said.

“I think in terms of race pace [Red Bull] are probably a bit more far away than quali, so it’s going to be tricky to mount any kind of challenge on them, but we’re going to try our best, with strategy and with everything we have.”



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