Charles Leclerc said that fourth on the grid at the Bahrain Grand Prix is a legitimate display of Ferrari’s pace, though he is wary of the threat posed by AlphaTauri.
There were times in 2020 when Leclerc pulled out impressive qualifying performances but was hamstrung by an underpowered and uncompetitive car that meant he struggled to hold positions in the race. After finishing within 0.1s of third-placed Sebastian Vettel and 0.3s of Lewis Hamilton in second in Bahrain, Leclerc says the show of pace in qualifying was down to him finally being unable to unlock the new car’s potential.
“I was struggling with the car, overdriving a little bit,” Leclerc said. “Not driving very well in general. I knew inside of me I could make a good lap, but until you do it you never really know if you can. So then qualifying arrived and the feeling was good. Straight from the beginning I built up the pace, and managed to do that lap in Q3 which I’m very happy with.”
And far from a one-lap wonder, Leclerc believes Ferrari has a car this year that is capable of racing with the rest of the strong midfield runners around it.
“Yes I think so. But I have to say that, seeing yesterday, I’m quite impressed by AlphaTauri. They were very, very quick on the race pace yesterday and they are also starting on mediums tomorrow, so it’s going to be tricky. But our goal is, obviously, to try to keep our position.
“I think the top three realistically is not reachable yet, but, with a bit more work, hopefully soon we will be able to fight with them.”
P4 in qualifying for @Charles_Leclerc
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 27, 2021
Focusing on where Ferrari has improved, Leclerc said it’s not just down to a new power unit but also a reflection of gains across the board.
“I think we just have a much stronger car. Whether it’s in balance, as I was saying on Friday – I think the car is easier to drive compared to last year. We have a bit more power and I can feel it, but we need to see relative to the others where we are at. It’s still early days but it feels like we’ve )made) a significant step considering the restrictions of the FIA of the development of the cars.
“I think we should be very satisfied with the work we’ve done from last year to this year. It’s only the first qualifying so let’s keep the feet on the ground and keep working very hard. But it looks promising for now and I’m happy to be back a bit further up the (order).”