Leclerc encouraged, at least for qualifying

Michelle Foster
Charles Leclerc Algarve circuit Portimao.jpg

Charles Leclerc Algarve circuit Portimao.jpg

Fourth fastest and on the medium tyres at Portimão, Charles Leclerc says he’s hoping for a good qualifying but cannot say how the race will go.

Formula 1 arrived at the Algarve circuit in Portugal on Friday, a first for the sport.

While the day ended with the usual Mercedes at the top, Valtteri Bottas quickest with a 1:17.940 on the soft tyres, it was also a good day for Leclerc.

As Ferrari slowly but surely claw back some of the deficit, Leclerc finished Friday’s running up in fourth place, 0.9s down, but on the medium tyres.

However, given that Friday’s second session was interrupted by two red flags, one for Pierre Gasly’s fiery AT01 and the second for Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll’s clash, the drivers didn’t get to put in the traditional long runs reserved for FP2.

And long runs, in other words races, have not been Ferrari’s strong suit.

While Leclerc has shown signs of improvement on low fuel runs, Ferrari are still struggling to get the most out of the SF1000 when it is in race trim.

As such the Monégasque driver is hoping for a good showing on Saturday but cannot predict how Sunday’s race may play out.

“It looked quite good today,” he said. “Let’s wait and see.

“We haven’t done much high fuel running with normal tyres, we did dome with the prototype tyres, and that was our weakness in the last race.

“It will be a bit of a surprise on Sunday when we’ll see where we’ll be, but on the qualifying pace looks quite promising

“The car is a little bit difficult to drive at the moment but it looks like the same for everyone in the paddock.

“I guess it will be up to the guy who does best lap without making any mistakes in qualifying and we’ll try to extract the maximum out of the car.”

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His team-mate Sebastian Vettel was sixth fastest on Friday.

“Today the track was a big but very interesting challenge for everybody,” he said.

“At the beginning it was very slippery, mostly because of the resurfacing, but it is very smooth. It was my very first day and I liked it. It’s good that we have plenty of tracks that are exciting.

“I think tomorrow will be better as the track itself will improve and we will know it better.

“It’s a bit difficult to say how competitive we were in the afternoon session, because not all the drivers tried a qualifying lap.

“Today, what everybody needed was more running to get into a rhythm. The car felt a bit nervous, partly due to the elevation changes, but I suppose that is the same for everyone. We will see the true picture tomorrow.”

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