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Leclerc encouraged by clear Ferrari ‘step forward’ despite losing out to Perez in Baku Sprint

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Charles Leclerc hailed significant progress in the Ferrari camp after he managed to split Red Bull pair Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen and claim second position during Saturday’s Sprint race at the Baku City Circuit.

Leclerc started the 17-lap dash on pole position, having topped both qualifying sessions this weekend, but was overhauled by Perez shortly after a Safety Car restart – the Red Bull’s superior DRS-assisted straight-line speed on show again.

READ MORE: Perez beats Leclerc and Verstappen to victory in action-packed Baku Sprint race

Nonetheless, Leclerc kept the other Red Bull of Verstappen behind him during the run to the chequered flag, giving him reasons to feel optimistic for what’s ahead, despite the initial disappointment of missing out on a Sprint victory.

“We cannot change the car, so of course you can work a little bit here and there on flaps maybe,” reflected Leclerc, when asked if there was anything he could learn for the Grand Prix. “But it confirms a little bit what we thought, [that] the Red Bull still has the upper hand in the race.

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Leclerc was unable to convert pole into victory in the Sprint, but still split the Red Bulls

“But we again must not forget how far we were behind in race pace two races ago. So, we did a step forward. We are still not where we want to be, but as I said, if winning is not possible, then we just need to take the maximum points.

“Today there was not anything more. So, [I’m] happy with the second place, and we will try to go for the win [from pole] tomorrow, even though the Red Bull seems a bit quicker.”

AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from the F1 Sprint in Azerbaijan

As for his battle with Perez, and whether he though he could hold on to the Red Bull after dropping behind, Leclerc added: “I did not know what to expect. I didn’t fight too much [with] Checo because I just wanted to try and keep my tyres. I knew this was our weak point.

“I tried to stay within the DRS of Checo, so he could pull me [along] in the straight, but that was not enough. [Then] we were losing a bit too much towards the end with the [tyre] degradation. Let’s see what’s possible to improve tomorrow, and we will give it our all.”

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