Leclerc puts ‘main focus’ on qualifying form ahead of Chinese GP


Charles Leclerc says he's committed to directing his “main focus” at next week’s Chinese GP on his qualifying struggles and particularly on his tyre preparation.

A master of the crucial one-lap exercise with 23 pole positions in F1 to his credit, Leclerc’s efforts in the Saturday afternoon session were untypically disappointing in Australia where he was fifth on the grid and last weekend in Japan where he clocked in a lowly eighth.

In both cases the lacklustre performance made his life more difficult on Sunday and allowed his Scuderia teammate Carlos Sainz – who will leave Ferrari at the end of the season – to gain an upper hand.

"If I only look at today, I'm very happy, I don't think there was anything we could have done better," he said after last Sunday’s race which he concluded in fourth position.

"The pace was really good, tyre management was really good, communication was really good. However, as a driver, you always have to look at the negative over the whole weekend.

"And whether it's in Australia or here, race pace has not been a problem - it's my qualifying pace, which is not something that I've been very used to in my career, to be working on my qualifying pace, because normally it's pretty good on the Saturday.

"However, since two races now in a row, I've been struggling to put the tyres in the right window.

"And this is definitely my main focus now going into Shanghai, to try and refine the right window, the tyres, and for me to put them more consistently inside that window.

“Then once I'll do that, I'm sure the pace will come back in quali."


The Monegasque has singled out his tyre preparation as the main culprit for his recent lack of brilliance in Saturday’s shootout.

"One hundred per cent," he said. "Because as I said, my laps weren't that bad. Yesterday, the lap I have done was actually really good. But the grip that was available from the tyre was just not there.

"And this is because I do a bad job on the lap before, which is very frustrating, because you finish a lap and you're happy. But actually you're nowhere.

"So I've got to focus on that. It's very fine, like very little differences. However, I'm confident that by analysing well the data – we've got a week before Shanghai – and whenever I focused on something, I improved quite quickly on it. So I'm not too concerned.

"But I need to do this step forward for Shanghai now."

Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur was unconcerned by Leclerc’s qualifying slump, and contended that his driver’s single-lap underperformance at Suzuka started in Q1.

"You don't have to draw a conclusion just based on the classification," said the Frenchman.

"I think where we missed a little bit the weekend with Charles yesterday was the first lap of Q1. He didn't do a mega lap, and we had to put the second set on, because we were a little bit at risk.

"And then you go to Q3, you have only one set. And you are a little bit on the back foot, because you're like, 'If I do a mistake, I will be P10'. And we didn't take the right approach on qualifying.

"But now I'm convinced that Charles is a competitor, he is the good one on one lap qualifying, and it will be back soon.”


Vasser noted that Leclerc will have “two opportunities to do the job” next week in Shanghai as the event’s schedule includes a Sprint event, with a qualifying session taking place on Friday and on Saturday.

He’s lucid on the fact that he didn’t do a good quali yesterday, that you can’t be happy when your team-mate is P4 and you are P8,” added the Frenchman.

“But overall we need to have a deep look on the quali, on the session. We missed the Q1 and then we landed at the end only with one set in Q3 and finished one-tenth off the second group.

“It’s not a disaster that you are half a second or six-tenths off. It will be another one next week.

“We’ll have two qualis in China [due to the Sprint weekend]. Two opportunities to do a good job.

“But keep in mind that he was, I think, eight times in a row in the first four, between Singapore and Australia.”

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