JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — Charles Leclerc took little comfort from qualifying 0.155s off Sergio Perez’s pole position time at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, saying Ferrari’s gap to Red Bull is much bigger than Saturday’s session suggested.
Leclerc was second fastest but will drop to 12th on the grid with a ten-place grid penalty after reliability issues at the Bahrain Grand Prix saw him exceed the number of control electronics allowed for the season.
Despite the apparent improvement in performance relative to Red Bull since the season opener in Bahrain, when Leclerc was 0.3s off pole position, the Ferrari driver was cautious about talking up his team’s progress after reigning champion Max Verstappen dropped out of qualifying with a driveshaft failure.
“I put everything in to my lap but I feel like the gap we are seeing from Checo to myself is not the real one, I think the gap is much bigger than that,” he said. “And eventually my goal is to beat the Red Bull, it’s not to finish second or third or fourth or whatever. So there is still a lot of work to do to before getting to their level.”
Leclerc said Ferrari was on a par with Mercedes, Aston Martin and Alpine for race pace, but expects Verstappen, who will start 15th, to scythe through the field.
“For tomorrow we have a ten-place grid penalty so it will be starting the race a bit on the back foot but I will do absolutely everything to come back to the front.
“We will also have Max behind, but the Red Bulls are in a league of their own for now so I’m pretty sure that he will come back quite quickly to the front. For us we will try and focus on ourselves, we are more or less in the same race pace of Alpine, Mercedes and Aston Martin so it should be a good fight, but let’s wait and see tomorrow.”