Charles Leclerc will need to make up for lost time after a disrupted Friday at the Marina Bay Circuit ahead of the Singapore GP.
This is a crucial race weekend for Leclerc as he looks to keep his slim title hopes alive, knowing that if Max Verstappen outscores him by 22 points or more in Singapore, then it is game over in the 2022 title race.
And Friday practice did not get off to a good start for Leclerc, who reported that there was “something wrong” with the brakes on his Ferrari, returning to action just before the halfway point.
Further troubles then cut down his track time in FP2, costing Leclerc the chance to perform a true race simulation, while traffic rather got in the way during his push laps as he drove out of sync with the pack, like Verstappen was also doing after some time stuck in the garage.
Leclerc took to team radio after FP2 had concluded to urge Ferrari to give him a helping hand when it came to positioning him on the track.
“Come on. Come on. For tomorrow please, let‘s do better,” he said. “I need some laps. I can‘t do laps avoiding cars.”
Speaking to reporters after FP2, Leclerc admitted that it had been a “very difficult day” in terms of track time, but as for performance, it was actually “positive”.
Finishing FP1 in P3, Leclerc rose a place come the end of FP2, completing a Ferrari one-two as Carlos Sainz topped the session.
“In terms of performance it has been a positive day, in terms of running, it’s been a very, very difficult day for us,” said Leclerc.
“We’ve had quite a bit of problems and very limited running, so we need to catch up in FP3, but seems like the performance is good.
“So that’s a good thing, but we still need to do a step from today to tomorrow and hopefully more running in FP3 tomorrow to get ready for qualifying.”
While he accepts that missing track time here in Singapore is not ideal, Leclerc takes encouragement from Ferrari’s pace over a single lap, with qualifying extremely important for this race as overtaking is not very easy to say the least.
“I mean, it’s never ideal to not have much running on city tracks, more laps you do the faster you get,” said Leclerc. “But again, I’m not too worried. It’s just been not a great day, but I’m sure that in FP3, we can have a clean FP3 and catch up a little bit the mileage that we missed from today.
“The only shame is obviously we didn’t do any race run today, but anyway, qualifying is important and I’m sure we’ll be strong.
“In terms of one-lap pace we are quite strong, but yeah, let’s see about the race pace. I have no idea for now.
“We went in the right direction from FP1 to FP2, and as I was saying, I hope we can do another step for tomorrow. We will go for the maximum result. We will target pole.”
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Despite finishing Friday’s action in the top spot, Sainz feels he still has improvements to make if he is to continue contending for that position.
He expects Red Bull and Mercedes, the latter topping FP1 via Lewis Hamilton, to step up their game come qualifying, feeling Ferrari need to make the biggest improvement of the trio to stay in the mix.
“I think it’s overall been a decent Friday because we managed to do all the run plan,” said Sainz. “We have quite a lot of laps, which around a city track is what you need to just to get laps under your belt.
“But yeah, we faced some challenges, FP1 was definitely a surprise with how bumpy and how poor the car was in general in terms of ride and how rough it felt out there.
“For FP2, we managed to improve a bit the car, it was feeling more comfortable in FP2 but it’s still not quite where I want it to be.
“You need to have a lot of confidence to be able to put a good lap together around here and to put all the sectors together, all the corners together, which are a lot of them, and we still were not at that level yet.
“We still have some things to look at because it looks like it’s going to be tight battle for six.
“There were a couple of guys there with issues that probably didn’t put the best possible lap time together, and I think tomorrow we all have a lot of margin to improve.
“So I expect tomorrow to be a lot quicker and I think the Ferraris, the Red Bulls, the Mercs are going to step it up and we’re going to need to be the ones that step it up the most.”
What came as a major surprise to Sainz was that when bolting on the soft tyre, he did not see the improvement in his times or anyone around him that he expected.
He feels then that there is lap time to gain here with a better understanding of the situation.
“The main thing was how tricky it was to get the soft tyre to work today,” Sainz revealed. “I think we all expected to put [on] the soft tyre and go one second quicker and we didn’t go more than three or four tenths quicker which was a bit of a surprise.
“So that means that there’s still a bit to find there tomorrow.”