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Formula 1 | “Didn’t sacrifice race pace”: Ferrari fit for victory after pole?

Ferrari started the 2022 Formula 1 year in the best possible way and secured pole position for the season opener in Bahrain. Although many had bet on Max Verstappen as pole setter after practice, Charles Leclerc drove the fastest lap in Sachir and grabbed first place on the grid. Teammate Carlos Sainz was also a good third.

“It feels very good,” says the Monegasque after pole. After the tests, Ferrari was considered one of the contenders for first place on the grid, but the fact that the Reds now have confirmation after two lean years that the car is fast should make many in Maranello smile: “I’m sure that the entire team is extremely happy with the result,” said Leclerc.

“But we were relatively sure that Red Bull would be a step ahead. But when we put everything together, the car seems to be very competitive. That’s nice.”

Leclerc himself only snatched pole position in his last attempt. Before that, team-mate Carlos Sainz was fastest in Q3, but wasn’t able to improve on the decisive lap. Leclerc himself simply got everything together in the decisive run, as he says, and thus gained the crucial tenths of a second.

“Before that it was always a bit messy, a mistake here and there,” he says. The tires in particular gave him a few problems today – especially in the first sector. “I was pretty slow in all qualifying sections,” he puzzles. “I didn’t have that problem all weekend, but it was more difficult for me in the evening.”

“It felt better in the last run, but we have to understand that because it didn’t feel as good as the rest of the weekend. There was still some performance,” said the Monegasque.

Sainz: It was just slow all weekend

Meanwhile, team-mate Sainz is relieved that after what had been a difficult weekend up to that point, he was able to finish third. In the end, the Spaniard was just 0.129 seconds off pole, leaving him with a good feeling.

“I’m happy that I was able to fight for pole position. It was a difficult weekend for me. I was slow, quite simply,” he says. “Charles did a better job all weekend. I have to catch up. There was one point where I was way down the field so I was relieved to be able to fight for pole in qualifying.”

He can therefore also congratulate his team-mate Leclerc on a good performance, just like his Ferrari team. “It’s great that we’re fighting for pole again. Exciting times lie ahead of us,” he announces.

Race pace not sacrificed

The question is whether Ferrari can save its pace for Sunday’s race, or whether the team may have sacrificed some race pace to take pole position on Saturday. But both drivers deny the latter.

Ferrari had already completed a lot of runs with a lot of petrol during the test drives and therefore didn’t drive that many in training, emphasizes Leclerc. The team preferred to collect information for short runs. “That helped for the qualifying performance, but I don’t think we sacrificed the performance in the race,” he says.

“I was chasing the pace for one lap all weekend. I was slow and focused on it,” said Sainz. “For me, the long run is a big unknown. Charles’s didn’t look bad, but it looks like the Red Bull has a strong long run. We didn’t sacrifice the car, but I wasn’t focused on that either.”

Sainz doesn’t feel quite well yet

So he doesn’t see himself as well prepared for the race: “My long runs yesterday were also slow, and that’s my last reference,” says Sainz, not knowing whether he can project the pace from qualifying onto the race.

Because Sainz doesn’t really feel comfortable in the car yet: “At the moment I have to think a lot when driving, and that blocks a lot of my capacity in my head because I have to understand what the car is doing in every corner,” he explains. “Nevertheless, we were able to fight and we’ll be there tomorrow.”

In the race on Sunday, however, it should also depend on who makes it to the finish line with their car. A new generation of vehicles still has teething problems, and above all the tiresome topic of porpoising worries many teams. Because shaking is not necessarily the best for durability.

At least Ferrari sees the issue calmly. “I think it shouldn’t be that big of a problem for us,” said Leclerc. “It’s inconsistent and difficult to predict whether we’ll get it or not. We’ll see tomorrow. But so far it hasn’t been a big concern.”

A start has been made

Therefore, the signs are good for a successful Ferrari start. The competition apart from Red Bull could be under control, but whether it’s going to be a really big hit is probably also due to Max Verstappen, who will start next to Leclerc from the front row. But the beginning has been made for Ferrari.

“We never thought it would be easy,” says Sainz. “We delivered a clean qualification without any mistakes. We need that tomorrow as well.”

“The team is focused and confident, but not too confident that we’re already celebrating. We’re Ferrari. That’s where we should be, so we shouldn’t be overly elated,” he said. “Of course that’s good, but there’s still a long way to go.”

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