Charles Leclerc got off to a flying start in sprint qualifying at Imola but admitted afterwards he had “paid the price” later on for doing so.
The World Championship leader beat Max Verstappen to the first chicane at Tamburello after an excellent getaway when the lights went out, and quickly scampered out of DRS range as he took a reasonable lead.
The 21-lap dash saw the Ferrari driver eventually lose grip on his soft rubber though, with Verstappen close enough to be able to reel in his title rival as the laps progressed.
Verstappen eventually returned the ‘favour’ to Leclerc by passing him around the outside at Tamburello on the penultimate lap of the sprint, which means the reigning World Champion will start ahead of his title rival in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Monegasque driver admitted he perhaps had pushed too hard in the early laps, but there may also have been more underlying performance in the Red Bull as well.
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He told Sky Sports F1 after sprint qualifying: “I pushed hard at the beginning to try and not be too vulnerable with Max having the DRS behind, and I feel like I’ve paid the price of doing that at the end of the race.
“It felt also like they had maybe something more today, and he kept it towards the end of the race and just overtook me when it mattered.
“So it’s like this. We will work on ourselves for tomorrow and try to maximise our package. Hopefully the same start as today, [but] without the degradation drop we had at the end, and a better race overall.”
The majority of the field ran the same soft-tyre strategy during the sprint on Saturday, run over a one-third race distance, but there is more scope for variation heading into Sunday’s grand prix.
FP2 took place on Saturday in what was the teams’ main opportunity to explore their options in dry conditions after wet weather had affected both FP1 and qualifying on Friday.
Leclerc said he and Ferrari will peel through what is available to them in finding the best way to attack the race on Sunday.
“I think with today’s data, it will help us to make the right decision for tomorrow – whether we will go for a harder compound or not, I’m not sure yet,” he said.
“We will check the data and take the right decision.”