Leclerc pole ends two years of pain for Ferrari

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Leclerc pole ends two years of pain for Ferrari

Formula 1

Leclerc pole ends two years of pain for Ferrari

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Charles Leclerc views his pole position at the Bahrain Grand Prix as the signal that Ferrari is back in the mix for championships after two difficult years.

Ferrari was extremely competitive at times in 2019 but a power unit investigation by the FIA coincided with a major drop-off in performance in 2020 that also saw the team struggling relative to Mercedes and Red Bull last season. However, after a strong pre-season, Leclerc took pole for the season-opening race ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz and says it’s proof the team is over that dip in form.

“Obviously the last two years for the team have been extremely difficult,” Leclerc said. “After 2019 that was positive we had two very difficult years where I knew it was just a matter of time before we got back to the top because we were working well. But until you actually do it you always have the doubts, and finally this season we managed to do a car that is back to where it deserves, which is to at least be in the mix for the top positions.

“And today the car was great. It wasn’t an easy qualifying session, very difficult to put the tires in the right window and actually put a lap together. I struggled quite a bit during qualifying but the last Q3 lap was good enough for pole, so very happy about this.”

Despite the impressive pace shown during the pre-season tests, Leclerc says he was expected Red Bull to have an advantage over Ferrari at the first race.

“It definitely feels very good. Again there’s been a lot of work — we’ve had very smooth tests. We kept more or less the same car from test number one, which helps us with the knowledge of this car. We know the car quite well, but we were quite sure that Red Bull would be in front by a little bit, but actually once we put everything together the car seems to be very competitive, so it’s nice.”

Leclerc also needed qualifying to convince him that Mercedes would not be fighting for pole position, believing it will now be a two-team battle for victory on Sunday.

“I personally still had the doubts after FP3. Obviously it was quite obvious that they were not at ease, but considering what happened in the years before they were hiding their gains quite a lot, maybe a bit more this year — well actually they weren’t hiding their gains, they were struggling more than other years, but I still expected them to maybe be fighting with us. Then for the race tomorrow, considering their pace today I don’t think (Mercedes will be in the fight), but let’s wait and see.”

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