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Leclerc ‘disappointed’ after missing out on pole in Bahrain but vows to ‘go for it’ in race

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 01: Second placed qualifier Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari looks on

Charles Leclerc was left ruing a tyre call that he feels “compromised” his performance in Q3 of qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix, leaving the Ferrari driver in second place while Max Verstappen clinched pole position.

The Monegasque used a fresh set of soft tyres for his final run in Q1, a decision that he suggested he was unhappy about over team radio at the time. He then went to the top of the timings at the end of Q2 after having used three sets of softs across the session.

READ MORE: Verstappen beats Leclerc and Russell to pole for season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix

This left Leclerc to run a used set in Q3, though they had only seen one lap of action earlier in the hour. While he went on to claim a place on the front row – having set a lap three tenths of a second behind Verstappen’s – Leclerc admitted after the session that he was not entirely pleased with the outcome.

“I’m a bit disappointed,” he explained. “We did a good qualifying. It’s been a tricky weekend until now, we were trying quite a few things in FP1, FP2, FP3 and then I found a sweet spot in qualifying.

“Q1 was a bit tricky. Unfortunately we put two new sets of softs which compromised us a little bit for Q3, but all in all it’s quite a good qualifying, a good start of the year. We are in a better place compared to a year ago, so that is good. Now we have to see the race pace tomorrow.”

Disappointed Leclerc had 'potential for pole' in Bahrain

Quizzed on why the gap between himself and Verstappen appeared larger in Q3 than earlier in the session, Leclerc responded: “In Q2 I think I did a [1m 29.01s lap] which was more or less the lap time Max did in Q3, so it was there in the car.

“I think we lost a little bit the rhythm [with] the used set of C3 in Q3, then you have to readapt to the new tyres and I lost a little bit there, but all in all it’s been a positive quali.”

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In terms of what Ferrari can achieve in the race, Leclerc is anticipating the gap to Red Bull to remain but has vowed to fight if possible.

“I’m confident we did a step forward but we have to wait and see tomorrow how much of a step forward we did,” he added. "We really think that Red Bull is still ahead by quite a bit in the race. We’ll see, but if there is an opportunity as always I’ll go for it and we see what happens tomorrow.”

On the other side of the Scuderia’s garage, Carlos Sainz started off qualifying looking strong. The Spaniard topped the timesheets at the end of Q1, a position he also held in the final practice session of the weekend earlier in the day.

Sainz puzzled by lack of Q3 improvement in otherwise 'solid' weekend so far

However, he seemed to lose momentum entering into Q3, something that the 29-year-old is keen to understand the reasons for after ending the day in P4.

“[It is] something to look into,” said Sainz after acknowledging his disappointment. "After Q2 I was pretty confident a low [1m 29s lap] was possible in this car and in these conditions, and for some reason that I don’t fully understand we were not able to find two or three tenths going into Q3, which is normally the progression that you have.

HIGHLIGHTS: Relive the action from qualifying in Bahrain as Verstappen clinches pole

“So [it’s] something to look into, something to analyse carefully, but apart from that I think we’ve been very solid all weekend. We are top four with a very tight field, so it’s something to be proud about and now we look into tomorrow.”

While the gaps amongst the field appear close, Sainz is unsure of whether he can keep the Red Bull of Sergio Perez behind, with the Mexican starting from P5 on the grid.

“Checo starts behind but with new tyres, so it will be difficult to beat Checo,” the Ferrari man stated. “While everyone else, I think we just need to be worried that Max has a completely different race pace to the rest of the field.

“But, everyone else, we are there to fight, so we will put together the best possible race and see where that takes us.”

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