Charles Leclerc is confident Ferrari has got its strategy right for the Russian Grand Prix despite Mercedes qualifying on a harder compound.
The 21-year-old took his fourth consecutive pole position in Sochi on Saturday but advanced to Q3 on the soft tire compared to Mercedes using mediums. With Lewis Hamilton starting alongside him, Leclerc is not fearful of the Mercedes strategy, believing his team will benefit in the early stages by being on a softer tire.
“I believe that the long-run pace yesterday was extremely positive, possibly the most positive of the whole season, so this is looking good,” Leclerc said. “But it will be an interesting race, Mercedes is starting on the mediums and I think the strategy will play a role. I think we did the right strategy by starting on softs, but we will see tomorrow.
“The start is very important here, and we thought the benefit of starting on the softs was big. And then there was not much degradation in terms of the difference between soft and medium.”
After becoming the first Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher in 2000/01 to take four pole positions in a row, Leclerc says his run is a result of hard work and not taking his pace for granted.
“Of course I feel confident going in qualifying but at the end at one point it’s going to end, so whether it’s now or later, I don’t know,” he said. “The only thing I’m trying to do is to focus on myself, do exactly the same procedure as I had since the last four races. I definitely don’t go to the car thinking it will be easy and come together alone. I just try to keep working as I did in the last races and hopefully the lap time comes.
“It feels good but it doesn’t change my approach from the other weekends. Every time you go into a session you just take it normally without thinking about the others, or the last poles I have. Obviously it feels great, but I don’t want to think about these things, and I just want to focus on the job ahead.”
Although Ferrari has won the past three races from pole position, Leclerc is wary of the team becoming overconfident in its own performance.
“I think we need to keep our feet on the ground,” he said. “Obviously at the moment we are with a good momentum, we are having good performances, but at the end it doesn’t change. Mercedes are still quite far ahead in the overall championship, which in the end is what matters the most.
“We need to keep our head down, keep working. Of course at the moment it feels like it is working our way, but I would not say it would be like this for the rest of the season so we need to keep working.”