Charles Leclerc warned Ferrari fans they should “not yet” get too excited despite admitting the team was stronger than expected during Friday practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Ferrari was a contender for victory in Monaco, with Leclerc qualifying on pole position but failing to start the race due to damage sustained in his crash at the end of Q3, and Carlos Sainz going on to finish second. Both drivers were playing down the chances of a repeat in Baku this weekend but after the pair ended FP1 in the top three and FP2 in the top four, Leclerc says the car is performing better than he’d predicted.
“It’s definitely better than we expected, but it’s only FP1 and FP2,” Leclerc said. “The pace looks promising. Now we’ll keep on working during the night and hopefully we’ll be as competitive tomorrow.
“McLaren are very, very quick, but they haven’t shown it for some reason today. Maybe it was less of a clean day compared to us, but I feel that they are still a bit ahead of us here, so we’ll have to wait and see.
“Definitely Red Bull and Mercedes — I don’t really know what happened with them, but I’m pretty sure they will be in front, and it will be basically a fight with McLaren. They are our main competitors, so we need to make sure we do everything perfect because they are doing very few mistakes this year. We are going to try and maximize our potential and hopefully we can be ahead of them tomorrow in quali.”
Leclerc did make a mistake in FP2 when he crashed at Turn 15 while on his fastest lap — one that looked capable of setting the pace for the day — but he brushed off the incident after being able to return to the pits minus his front wing.
The moment Leclerc found the Baku barrier 💥
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 4, 2021
“I actually felt quite comfortable in the car today, especially on braking. Maybe a bit too comfortable and pushed a little bit too much into Turn 15. But in the end, that’s what it’s for, the free practice. I’ve been trying the limits a little bit — I was on a good lap.”
Sainz agrees with Leclerc that Friday went better than expected but isn’t sure where Ferrari sits in the pecking order other than behind Red Bull.
“We’re definitely a bit quicker than maybe what we anticipated, but it is true also that I got a couple of tows in my good laps,” he admitted. “The long run, we didn’t quite clearly see the pace. Probably tomorrow will be a better indicator.
“But we’re definitely not as quick as in Monaco, that’s for sure. I think Red Bull are both quicker in the long run and the short run and we just need to get our heads down and work out if we can find a bit more lap time.”