Leclerc "surprised" to beat Verstappen in Bahrain F1 qualifying

Ferrari Formula 1's Charles Leclerc says he was surprised to beat Max Verstappen and Red Bull in Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying after denying the world champion pole by one tenth.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75

At the scene of his first-ever F1 pole in 2019, Leclerc secured the top spot again at Sakhir after a nail-biting qualifying shootout, which featured three drivers within 0.129s.

After the first set of Q3, runs Leclerc had to settle for second behind Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz, but on his second lap he went a tenth quicker to keep both the Spaniard and Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who nicked second by a mere 0.006s, at bay.

While Ferrari had looked strong all pre-season, Leclerc said the Maranello team was convinced Red Bull would still be quicker over one lap, and he therefore pole had come as a surprise.

"We were pretty sure that Red Bull was going to be a bit quicker than us in qualifying, but a good surprise, it wasn't the case," Leclerc said in parc ferme.

"So now we need to do everything for tomorrow, it is not going to be easy. Tyre management will be important, especially with this increased weight this year, so we need to focus on that and hopefully have a good race tomorrow."

The Monegasque driver, who scored his 10th pole in F1 and his first since Baku last year, said he still wasn't completely happy with his driving as drivers and teams are still coming to grips with their all-new machinery for 2022.

"It was a very tricky qualifying session, I was not completely happy with my driving, and managed to do the lap in Q3 and then starting from pole, so very happy," he added.

The Ferrari team celebrate

The Ferrari team celebrate

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

"From the driving point, it's completely different compared to last year. Testing was very useful for this.

"I tried many different driving styles and still need to find the perfect one. There's definitely much more to come hopefully from us."

Leclerc said it was extra rewarding that the team has been able to use the 2022 rules reset to make a leap forward after several low-key years for the Scuderia.

"The last two years have been incredibly difficult for all the team and we were quite hopeful that this year was an opportunity to be back," he explained.

"I think we have worked extremely well as a team to find ourselves in a position to fight for better places, so I'm very happy with today."

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