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Formula 1 Bahrain GP

Leclerc: Ferrari "don't have performance for pole" at Bahrain GP

Charles Leclerc reckons his Ferrari Formula 1 team “don’t have the performance for pole” in the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

In the later FP2 session, which best replicates qualifying conditions, Leclerc was fourth fastest as his Scuderia team-mate Carlos Sainz ran to 14th.

Leclerc was 0.46s adrift of Aston Martin pacesetter Fernando Alonso and 0.3s in arrears of 2022 title rival Max Verstappen before the shift to focus on race stint simulations.

While Leclerc expected the strong Aston pace to drop off on Saturday, the Monegasque reckoned Ferrari would still not be there to fight for pole.

He told F1TV: “I don’t think we have the performance maybe for pole.

“It’s still early days. I maybe think that Aston is a bit quicker than what they will be tomorrow. We don’t know. It’s just what I think.”

Leclerc reckoned his team had “most work to do” in tuning the SF-23 to fix its race pace but said “there’s a bit of margin” to improve.

However, he did acknowledge that the car was better-behaved than in pre-season testing last week, when Leclerc was deliberately encumbered with understeer-biased set-ups.

He explained: “Let’s says that the feeling is better than testing.

“On my side in testing, it’s been very inconsistent in the way we run the car because we were testing a lot of things, so I didn’t have much time with the car to my liking. I did today.”

Sainz, meanwhile, felt the opposite, saying he was much less settled in the car as he found himself “struggling a bit more with the balance”.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Only when it was resolved did he think he could put together a competitive qualifying lap.

The Spaniard said: “Simply the car is not exactly responding, as I expect or as it did in testing.

“I'm struggling a bit more with the balance. It's a bit more out of place compared to where it was. But we're having a good look at it. We expect to put it back together for tomorrow.”

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Sainz also explained his dramatic FP1 spin, which occurred through the downhill Turn 9 gradual left curve on the approach to the more recognisable Turn 10 tight left-hander.

This followed shortly after a change of rear-wing spec for the SF-23, with Sainz running with two centre struts after the single-element piece was spotted shaking excessively.

Asked for his account of the spill, Sainz said: “We were just testing some things in the car, trying to finalise a few things that we wanted to try in FP1.

“[We were] scrubbing the medium tyres, which we wanted to get rid of in FP1, to use the softs in the night session.

“It didn't go to plan, clearly. It wasn't intentional.

“It was a test that went wrong, and we came back for FP2. I lost a bit of track time; I lost a bit of freedom and probably paid the price in FP2. Still, the car doesn't feel the same as it did in testing.”

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