Charles Leclerc admits he was surprised to be so close to Mercedes in qualifying for the British Grand Prix after missing out on pole position by less than 0.1s.
Ferrari played down its chances of fighting at the front at Silverstone following Leclerc’s pole position at the Austrian Grand Prix, but after an encouraging Friday was a real threat in qualifying. Leclerc ended up just 0.079s away from polesitter Valtteri Bottas but had to settle for third on the grid, and insists he left nothing on the table.
“Very, very happy with my lap,” Leclerc said. “I think in the last corner, I maybe could have done a little bit better but not much. Overall I think we are very happy with the performance, very close to Mercedes. We did not expect it — we thought we would be struggling more this weekend.
“We have been struggling since FP1 with the front end of the car, still in qualifying but a little bit less. So it’s a good qualifying session for us. Of course we hope for a higher position, but third I think was quite good today.”
Leclerc was fastest in Q2 on the medium compound tire but opted for an extra run on softs and improved, meaning he will start on that tire. The 21-year-old insists it was always Ferrari’s plan and hopes to be able to make up positions at the start compared to the Mercedes pair on a harder compound.
“We wanted to do that. I think in Austria it wasn’t a bad choice — that’s not what made us finish second there, so we are happy.
“It was planned like this. The race run was not great yesterday; it was not due to the tires, we had some issues with the front end. I think it got better today so we’ll see tomorrow if we have a significant improvement on the long runs. But it was not due to the tires.
“(Getting a better start) is definitely the target, trying to use our tire advantage, especially at the start, to gain positions and then try and keep them. Keeping them will be very difficult because they are both extremely quick in race runs, but that’s the target.”