When the Bahrain Grand Prix gets underway tomorrow at 6pm at the Sakhir circuit, the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will be starting from the second row. It was a very closely contested qualifying session, with the two SF-23s proving to be competitive, fighting Red Bull down to the nearest thousandths of a second.
Having made it to the final phase, both drivers went out on new Soft tyres, with the Monegasque setting a time of 1’30”000, which at the time, put him second behind Max Verstappen. The Spaniard stopped the clocks in 1’30”361. Leclerc and the team then decided not to go for the second run, preferring to save a set of new Soft tyres for the race, thus settling for third on the grid, behind Sergio Perez. Sainz went back out to post a 1’30”154 to secure the second row for the Scuderia.
All the signs suggest it will be a very close race, in which tyre management will be a decisive factor.
“A positive qualifying. We were in the fight for pole, which we didn’t expect coming into the weekend. Several teams seem to be quite close, which makes things more exciting for drivers and fans, and I think it’s good for the sport. In terms of race pace, we could find ourselves a bit on the backfoot, as our competitors looked very strong in that area during free practice. We will give everything tomorrow and, with an extra set of fresh Soft tyres, hopefully we will have a good fight.”
“Today we made a step forward as a team. It’s been a difficult build-up to qualifying for me, not having had a clean day yesterday, but we reacted well today. I lost a bit in sector 2 in a couple of twitchy corners, but apart from that the feeling overall was better. Now we’re looking forward to tomorrow. We’ll fight until the very last lap and try to bring home a good result to get the season going.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“It’s always difficult to have a clear picture going into the very first qualifying of the season, as you come here not knowing where the others are, but in the end we got a good result today. We were P1 in both Q1 and Q2 so it was looking good for the fight for pole, but then we decided with Charles to save one set of new tyres for tomorrow’s race, whereas with Carlos we used another new set since it was such a tight qualifying and a new tyre made the difference. Starting from the second row is actually a positive result considering that we will have the only driver with an extra set of new Soft tyres, so I am more than happy with this first qualifying. For tomorrow, when the points are scored, we need to put everything together and manage degradation. We have carried out some good race simulations, it’s a long season and tomorrow’s race is just the first step.”