Charles Leclerc believes that Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix will see a tough challenge from Red Bull.
The Ferrari driver is the championship leader this season but Max Verstappen - last season’s champion - is pushing him hard in the campaign standings.
Monegasque competitor Leclerc had a spin between turn 13 and 14 which reduced him to just a single attempt in Q3, but that was enough to take pole from Verstappen, who suffered a late technical problem that held him back.
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Speaking to Sky Sports after the session, Leclerc said: “I feel good, it was a very, very difficult session, especially in Q3, because I did a mistake in the run of Q3 and obviously only had one lap, but it went extremely well.
“I had moments on my lap but in the end I made it stick and I'm very happy, it was a good lap and the car was amazing too.”
While he hoped to lead from the front in a race that traditionally favours cars in the front row, he admitted he expected strong competition from Verstappen.
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He said: “I am in a strong position to start the race, but we have been struggling with tires compared to Red Bull in the last two races, and Max is just behind. If we don't manage our tires well we’ll lose that win. We need to get on top of it and do a good job tomorrow.
“I hope we can do a 1-2 together with Carlos - it would be great for the team and we’ll give it our all.”
Verstappen gave more details of his technical problem, explaining: “It’s always difficult to tell but I couldn’t do my final run, either the DRS didn’t open or I just lost power, so it’s a bit of a shame, but overall to be on the front row it was a good achievement but I would have liked to go for that final run.
“The last two races we seem pretty decent on the tires. Tomorrow again will be very hot, very warm, this track will be hard to pass but let’s see, hopefully our car will be a bit kinder on the tires but it’s hard to tell at the moment.”
Verstappen’s team principal Christian Horner clarified that the problem was with DRS.
“It was the DRS that didn’t open so we need to get the car back to understand,” he stated. “I don’t think we had enough to beat that lap of Charles - a great lap from him under pressure, but I’m still pleased with a front row start.
“We’ll see tomorrow, Charles has carried a new set of soft tires into the race tomorrow so that’s interesting. Tomorrow is all going to be about tire [degradation] and tire management, so it’s going to be a fascinating race. I think you saw tomorrow they had a long run with both of their cars, so they didn’t look too bad. I think we’re going to be evenly matched and it’s going to be a close race.”
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