Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc claimed pole for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, but he feels Red Bull have the advantage for the race.
Despite testing suggesting that Red Bull and Ferrari were the strongest teams, neither wanted to embrace the tag of being favourite heading into the Bahrain GP.
But come qualifying, any pace being hidden needed to come out, the end result being Ferrari and Red Bull very evenly matched over one lap.
It was Leclerc though who claimed pole for the 10th time in his career, just over a tenth ahead of Verstappen.
He suspects the advantage will swing back in Red Bull’s favour on race day though, and by a larger margin.
“I think in the race pace Red Bull are ahead by two, three tenths,” he told Sky Italia.
“But let’s hope to have a nice surprise like today, to have a good race and win.”
Our Saturday in 📸#essereFerrari 🔴 #BahrainGP pic.twitter.com/F7DTst1jzJ
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) March 19, 2022
Although Leclerc claimed two pole positions in 2021, the new season feels different with Ferrari starting out seemingly very much a title contender for the first time since 2019.
Leclerc explained that it was not an easy road back to this point, but always had faith that Ferrari would return to the top.
“Obviously, the last two years for the team have been extremely difficult after 2019… we had two very difficult years where I knew it was just a matter of time before we got back to the top because we were working well – but until you actually do it, you always have the doubt,” he told reporters in Bahrain.
“And finally, this season, we managed to make a car that is back to where it deserves, which is to at least be in the mix for the top positions.
“And today the car was great – it wasn’t an easy qualifying session, very difficult to keep the tyres in the right window and to actually put a lap together. I struggled quite a bit during qualifying, but the last Q3 lap was good enough for pole, so I’m very happy about this.
“Again, and with Carlos also last year, it’s been a very difficult year and it’s not easy after 2019… But I think we reacted in the best way possible and during these [pre-season] tests we straight away felt that there was a good feeling with the car.”
Sainz would reveal after Bahrain qualifying that he is still “really struggling” to get to grips with the F1-75, but he nonetheless claimed P3 on the grid, his best time only 0.006s slower than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Additional reporting by Luca Brambilla
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