Charles Leclerc said his Ferrari felt “completely off” while gunning for pole in Q3 in Hungary on Saturday, experiencing a “weird” feeling with his tyres.
Leclerc could not match team-mate Carlos Sainz in the final part of qualifying, coming in a tenth behind the Spaniard in what looked to be shaping up as an all-Ferrari front row.
But George Russell came out of the blue and nicked pole position at the last in his Mercedes, trumping Sainz by just 0.044s as he earned his first ever pole in Formula 1.
Leclerc was pleased for the Mercedes driver, but felt pole was on the table for him on Saturday.
“Yeah, it’s not too bad,” Leclerc said to Sky F1, referring to his P3 grid slot. “But on the other hand, we had to get that pole.
“But a huge congratulations to George. It’s been a great lap from him.
“I haven’t seen it yet, but I imagine it was an amazing lap from him, and it’s a special day for him too. And we’ll try to overtake him tomorrow.”
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Leclerc and Sainz topped one practice session each on Friday as Ferrari showed a strong turn of pace, but much cooler conditions are expected on Sunday, meaning long-run speed will be something of an unknown in the race.
But while Leclerc remains confident about the performance of his F1-75, he said talks will need to be had to understand the issue he faced in qualifying.
“I think it’s good,” he said of his race pace. “We need to focus on ourselves, do a good start tomorrow and then I believe the performance will be good.
“Today on my side in Q3 for some reason there was something very weird with the tyres and we need to analyse that because it was just feeling completely off compared to before.
“So, we’ll try and look at it and understand what went wrong, but for the race pace, I’m confident.”
With the Red Bull drivers well behind the Ferrari pair on the grid, there is a chance Leclerc and Sainz will be able to close the gap in both championships if things go their way.
He refused to get drawn into discussing the implications of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez starting P10 and P11 respectively, though.
“Yeah, there’s an opportunity but we’ll just focus on ourselves and try to the best result possible,” he concluded.
Looking ahead to the Hungarian Grand Prix
The Hungarian Grand Prix is the final race before Formula 1's summer break.