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Leclerc ‘very happy’ to banish bad Portimao memories with P4 in qualifying

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Charles Leclerc put in another star turn in qualifying this season with his second consecutive P4 grid slot at the Portuguese Grand Prix, and the Ferrari driver said he was especially pleased to put in such a strong performance at a track that he’d struggled to get on top of during his junior career…

Back in 2015, Leclerc endured one of the worst rounds of his European F3 campaign at Portimao, taking one sixth place and two sevenths, as he was beaten in the final race by the likes of George Russell and Lance Stroll.

READ MORE: Hamilton ‘had to drive the nuts off the car’ to secure 97th pole at ‘hardcore’ Portimao

But a stunning performance in the freshly-updated Ferrari SF1000 in qualifying for the Portuguese Grand Prix put Leclerc fourth on the grid – as he was at the Nurburgring last time out – while he even ‘did a Mercedes’ by making it through Q2 on the medium tyre, giving him a potential strategic advantage in the race, as team mate Sebastian Vettel could only take P15.

“That was very good!” said Leclerc afterwards. “I was very happy with P4, and starting on the medium, so especially this, I’m very happy with.

“As I was saying before the weekend, the only memories I have on this track were very, very bad, so I don’t know why [it was so good]. I’m not particularly confident on this track but the car was good today. It was quite tricky in Q3 but I managed to put my lap all together and this I think made the difference.”

Charles Leclerc 'very happy' starting from P4 on medium tyres in Portugal

Despite his P4 starting position at the Eifel Grand Prix, Leclerc struggled for race pace in Germany, as he eventually fell to seventh at the chequered flag, behind the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.

But with Ferrari having brought more upgrades this weekend, focused primarily around the SF1000’s diffuser, Leclerc said a race simulation in Free Practice 3 had looked more promising – although he added that taking his third podium of 2020 this weekend would be a challenge.

READ MORE: Hamilton ‘had to drive the nuts off the car’ to secure 97th pole at ‘hardcore’ Portimao

“That’s optimistic,” said Leclerc, when asked if he thought the top three was possible, “but we need to be like that, so we’ll try to be fighting for the podium. But P4, P5 is more realistic.

“Let’s see. In Nurburgring I had a very good quali, but then in the race I struggled quite a lot with graining especially. This morning, we did a very small race simulation and it seems a lot better, so let’s wait and see tomorrow.”

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