Leclerc delighted after qualifying gamble pays off
December 6, 2020
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc will be starting Sunday’s Sakhir Grand Prix from a surprise fourth place after the team managed to pull off a risky strategy in qualifying.
Leclerc went for just one flying lap in the final round of the session, and posted a time of 53.613s in the process – 0.236s off the pole position time achieved by Valtteri Bottas.
He was the only driver not to go out again at the end of the session. But it paid off, and hile several other drivers improved their times as the chequered flag came out, Leclerc successfully retained the second row starting slot.
Read more: Bottas and Russell secure Sakhir front row for Mercedes
“I’m so happy because it was kind of a bet to go out at the beginning of the session and not go out again,” he admitted afterwards.
As for why he’d opted out of the final minutes of the session, Leclerc explained: “To be honest, for different reasons I wanted to go early/
“[Firstly] for traffic because I expected it to be a mess at the end of the run,” he continued. “Also to not wait too much before going out again [after the end of Q2.
“I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do in the car, and I managed to do everything on my lap, so I’m extremely happy to be starting P4 tomorrow.”
It’s a strong recovery for Leclerc who missed out on the whole of second practice on Friday evening because of a driveshaft issue/ However that does mean he lacks long stint experience heading into the race.
“Unfortunately by missing out FP2 I didn’t do any race runs, so I’m going a bit into the unknown,” he acknowledged. “But I’ll give everything and see where we end up.”
He’s certainly in a better position that his Ferrari team mate Sebastian Vettel, who suffered an engine issue at the end of final practice.
The mechanics fitted a replacement unit in time for qualifying but it seemed down on power and he was eliminated at the end of Q2.
“I struggled in the middle sector,” said Vettel, who was over a quarter of a second off progressing into the pole shoot-out stage, meaning that he will start tomorrow’s race from 13th on the grid.
“Obviously it’s tight and we were quite far in the way at the end,” he said. “I think we lost on the straights but I probably just didn’t get much of a tow.
“We probably could have been a bit sharper on track position,” he added. “But unfortunately we couldn’t quite keep up with the pace that we seemed to have the whole weekend.”
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