Leclerc rues tyre strategy misstep that cost Bahrain pole


Charles Leclerc finished runner-up to poleman Max Verstappen in Friday’s Bahrain GP qualifying, but the Ferrari charger rued a strategic decision by his team that he believes ultimately cost him a shot at pole position in Q3.

Leclerc concluded the evening shootout 0.228s adrift from Verstappen and just 0.078s ahead of Mercedes George Russell.

However, the Monegasque - a two-time polesitter in Bahrain - actually set the quickest lap of the session when he hammered in a 1m29.165s in Q2. But he was unable to replicate that performance when it counted most in the final segment of qualifying.

The key factor was a strategic misstep by the Scuderia that forced him to battle in Q3 with a used set of soft tyres. Consequently, Leclerc felt he had “lost the rhythm” at a crucial moment.

"In Q2, I did a [1m29.1s lap] which was more or less the lap time that Max did in Q3. So, it was in the car,” he explained.

"Just, I think we lost a little bit the rhythm with a used set of C3 [tyres] in Q3. Then you have to re-adapt to the new tyres, and I lost a little bit there. But all in all, it's been a positive qualifying."


While disappointed with missing out on pole position, Leclerc painted a cautiously optimistic picture for Ferrari's performance.

He acknowledged that the new SF-24 car seemed to finally hit its "sweet spot" during qualifying, suggesting a positive step forward compared to previous outings.

"I'm a bit disappointed," said Leclerc. “It's been a tricky weekend until now. We were trying quite a few things in FP1, FP2, FP3. Then I found the sweet spot in qualifying.

"Q1 was a bit tricky. Unfortunately, we put two new sets of softs, which compromised a little bit the Q3. But all in all, it's quite a good qualifying to start the year.

"We are in a better place compared to a year ago, so that is good. Now, we have to see the race pace.

"I'm confident we did a step forward. But we have to wait and see how much of a step forward we did [in race trim]. We really think that Red Bull is still ahead by quite a bit in the race."

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter