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Leclerc: F1 sprint shootout crash triggered by soft tyre drop off

Charles Leclerc says pushing too hard to make up for a drop-off in performance on the soft tyres triggered his late crash in Formula 1’s sprint shootout qualifying in Baku.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

The Ferrari driver had been at the top of the timesheets after the first run in the final SQ3 session, before drivers completed a cool down lap and went for a second effort.

But with the best performance having been taken out of the mandatory softs, Leclerc said that with his second effort being slower in the first sector, he went too far in trying to recover time.

“The soft was a little bit tricky because you get in Q3 and we haven't driven on these tyres since yesterday,” said Leclerc, who still managed to keep hold of his sprint pole slot despite the accident.

“It's not a long time ago, but the conditions are very different so it was behaving much differently. The rear overheated on the second lap.

“I tried to push a bit more to gain some lap time, as I was behind my first best lap time, and I lost it in Turn 5. But in the end it doesn't have any consequence on qualifying.

“I don't know about Carlos behind me, so it's a shame if he was improving, but I’m happy with the first lap, very happy with the first lap. And now we have to confirm that in the race.”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

While Ferrari has proved to be a match for Red Bull in qualifying, it has been behind its main rival in the races so far this season.

Leclerc admitted that he was cautious about the chances of beating Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen in the sprint, but that was not an excuse for giving up.

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“We'll go for it, but we need to be realistic,” he said. “Until now we have been on the backfoot in the race, as especially the Red Bull seems to be a step ahead. So let's see how it is.

“Hopefully we have a good surprise. I think we improved the car quite a bit, but today we'll have more of an answer in the race and we will see where we are compared to them.”

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