Nico Rosberg hopes Ferrari strategy issues did not return in Bahrain qualifying

Sam Cooper
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc looks dejected. Bahrain, March 2023.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc looks dejected. Bahrain, March 2023.

Nico Rosberg hopes Ferrari’s performance in qualifying at Bahrain is not a sign their strategy issues of 2022 are returning.

As drivers prepared for their final quick lap of the session, there was an odd sight in the Ferrari garage with Charles Leclerc spotted hopping out of the SF-23.

It would transpire that the choice not to send Leclerc back out was actually a tactical one as the team believed it would be better for him to save a fresh pair of softs for the race and were ultimately happy with their P3 starting spot.

However, having one of your drivers fail to put in a final quick lap is not a good look and a move that does not suggest the team had everything in order. As a result, Rosberg pondered whether the strategy problems that cost Ferrari so dear in 2022 were resurfacing in 2023.

“It’s a very odd one,” Rosberg told Sky Sports F1. “I hope it’s not kind of the continuation of Ferrari strategy difficulties because they do have a new strategist this year.

“So I hope that actually now it turns out to be a really smart call for tomorrow. We have to wait and see.”

Rosberg was joined on the broadcast by Naomi Schiff who said that it was “strange” to sacrifice qualifying in the hope of a better race performance.

“I would say in the first race of the season you want to see exactly what the full potential of your car is,” she said. “Exactly where you might be lacking.

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“They’ve made that decision because they believe that over race pace, they don’t quite have as much as Red Bull does and they think that they’re going to have an advantage by having an extra set of tyres.

“I don’t know how much it’s going to help them. I don’t know if it’s going to make the difference. But they’ve made some calculations and apparently to them, it makes sense. We’ve got to believe them but it would have been great to see his [Leclerc’s] full potential today.”

Despite the oddity, Ferrari did lock out the second row of the grid with only the two Red Bulls proving quicker. Rosberg was full of praise for the reigning Constructors’ champions, describing their performance as a “really awesome job.”

“You could see how massively turned down they had their engine,” Rosberg commented. “I mean in Q2 as they started to really ramp it up it was phenomenal.

“But we didn’t see the second lap from Leclerc so Ferrari really was very, very close. But tomorrow is another day.

“But the disappointment for me personally today was a lot. I was just hoping it could be even closer up front. Of course still brilliant for Aston Martin and [Fernando] Alonso but I somehow had the hope that he would be much closer.”