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Leclerc ‘paid the price’ for poor qualifying in Japanese GP as he vows to work on struggles

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: 8th placed qualifier Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari walks in parc

Charles Leclerc enjoyed a strong drive to P4 in the Japanese Grand Prix, but the Monegasque admitted that he was “paying the price” for his qualifying struggles in the race, having missed out on a podium position to Ferrari team mate Carlos Sainz.

Leclerc started the event from P8 on the grid after a difficult qualifying on Saturday, in which he had to use two sets of soft tyres in Q1 to avoid elimination. This resulted in him relying on just one flying lap in Q3.

READ MORE: Verstappen leads home Perez for Red Bull one-two at Japanese GP after early drama

Race day was more successful for the 26-year-old, who made a one-stop strategy work to his advantage. While he looked to be on course to claim P3, he was overtaken by Sainz in the latter stages of the event and had to settle for fourth place, though this did not prevent him from being voted Driver of the Day by fans.

“If I only look at today I’m quite happy, because I think there was nothing we could have done better,” Leclerc reflected after the race. “We’ve done a great race today.

Leclerc blames poor qualifying for failure to make the podium at Suzuka

“I think we didn’t have a better result mostly because of the qualifying yesterday and this is where I want to focus, which is strange – in the past I never had to really focus on qualifying because that was one of our strengths.

“But since [these past] two races, it’s not really the performance in itself, it’s just putting the tyres in the right window and I’ve been struggling a bit more than normally, which is normally my strength, and I’m paying the price today in the race by starting further away.

READ MORE: Sainz thrilled with third place in Japan after making multiple overtakes during ‘tough’ race

“Apart from that, the pace has been really, really good. The tyre management has been really, really good. Communication and strategy has been really, really good.

“It’s also good to be voted Driver of the Day. Sometimes you do great races but you are a bit on your own, nobody notices it. Today I’m happy that people noticed it, and we’ll focus on the next race to try and put everything together, and to finally have the result that we want.”

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-24 on track during

Leclerc is hoping to work on his recent qualifying issues ahead of the upcoming Chinese Grand Prix

Asked if he had already started to form an idea of what is causing his issues in qualifying after Saturday’s session at Suzuka – or whether it will require more time to understand – Leclerc responded: “We need to go a bit more in-depth in the next couple of days before China.

“It’s very slight differences on the out-lap, but then you get less grip on the push lap because again, as I said yesterday, the lap was good, set-up was good, just not enough grip.

DRIVER OF THE DAY: Leclerc gets your vote with faultless P4 drive in Japan

“Normally this has been the strength in the past but since two races it’s not, so it’s time to focus on that and hopefully put everything together starting from China.”

Leclerc and Ferrari will be hoping to have a clearer understanding of those issues when the Chinese Grand Prix takes place from April 19-21.

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