Red Bull "in another league" - Leclerc

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Red Bull "in another league" - Leclerc

Formula 1

Red Bull "in another league" - Leclerc


Charles Leclerc says Red Bull Racing’s RB19 is in another league compared to the rest of the grid after finishing a distant third to a dominant Sergio Perez-Max Verstappen one-two.

Leclerc started from pole position and held off both Verstappen and Perez at launch, but his defense of the lead was destined to be short-lived.

Verstappen breezed past him on lap 4 once DRS had been activated, and Perez wasn’t far behind, demoting Leclerc to third on lap 6 before the Red Bull Racing drivers charged up the road to an eventual 21-second victory over the Ferrari driver.

It was the 15th time Leclerc failed to convert a pole position into a grand prix victory, but he said he never stood a chance in Baku.

“They are in another league when it comes to race,” Leclerc said. “The really good [qualifying] lap managed to put us at the front, but over 51 laps it was just not possible; they have so much more pace than we do in race pace.”

Red Bull Racing’s prodigious top speed has been a talking point all year, particularly with the DRS activated. It’s given both Verstappen and Perez a notable advantage when battling through the field and doesn’t appear to come at the expense of reduced cornering performance.

The speed delta between Verstappen and Leclerc as the Dutchman breezed into the lead was more than 21 miles per hour.

“I think they found something we didn’t yet,” Leclerc said. “That’s where our focus is at the moment.

“Everybody is working flat out to try and understand what we can do in the races, especially to just get more performance.”

Perez and Verstappen enjoyed an advantage of around 0.5s per lap over Leclerc after the safety car, though the average margin was closer to a full second immediately after the race restarted as the two drivers pushed each other in a battle for the lead.

Combined with a long battle with Fernando Alonso, which he won by only 0.8s, it was the result was enough for Leclerc to doubt how much Ferrari had managed to close the gap this weekend, having sounded more optimistic about the team’s progress on Saturday.

“Honestly, the feeling is a little bit better, but when I see the gap – and I’m pretty sure when you have this you’re not pushing at 100 per cent – we don’t really know how much we’ve cut the gap,” he said.

“But the feeling is a little bit better. Again, the Aston Martin was really quick today, so we still have a lot of work to do.”

Carlos Sainz, who toiled to fifth more than 24 seconds behind Leclerc, said he wasn’t convinced Ferrari was genuinely the second-quickest car.

“If you look in detail at are race pace compared to the Astons and the Red Bulls, they still have relatively much better race pace than qualifying pace compared to us,” he said. “This is very high up on our list of things that we want to understand, because definitely the points are on Sunday and that’s where you want to be quicker.”