Charles Leclerc insists ‘Red Bull are on another planet’ despite pushing Sergio Perez all the way in qualifying for the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix, as he admits Ferrari are still ‘struggling a little bit’ to keep pace with their F1 title rivals
Charles Leclerc believes there is still a significant gap between Red Bull and the rest of the F1 paddock after Sergio Perez secured pole position for the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen suffered with engine problems in qualifying after dominating the earlier practice sessions and will start Sunday’s race in 15th, but Perez ensured that Red Bull will start at the front of the grid.
Leclerc delivered an impressive final lap in Q3 to finish just 0.15 seconds behind Perez, offering hope that Ferrari will be ready to challenge Red Bull on Sunday.
The 25-year-old will take a 10-place grid penalty, though, meaning he will start 12th, and Leclerc has admitted it will be difficult to compete with Perez and Verstappen this weekend.
‘Happy? Yes and no,’ Leclerc said as he analysed Saturday’s qualifying.
Charles Leclerc thinks Red Bull have comfortably the best car in the early stages of the season
Sergio Perez (centre) will start on pole on Sunday after holding off Leclerc in qualifying
Max Verstappen looked good in practice but will start in 15th due to engine problems
‘On one hand, I think it’s been a very difficult weekend in terms of pace for us. But I’m very happy about my lap. I think I put everything in it. It was really, really on the limit.
‘On the other hand, Red Bull are on another planet. And we are struggling a little bit. So, we need to keep pushing. But that’s what we are doing as a team.’
Leclerc was unable to complete the opening race of the season in Bahrain due to a power unit failure, leaving him already playing catch-up in the title race with Verstappen and Perez who finished first and second respectively.
He has suggested that Ferrari have made some improvements over the past fortnight, but is still unsure as to how his car compares to the rest of the F1 grid.
‘The race pace looks quite good. But it’s very difficult to compare, because in FP2, everybody has a very different program,’ Leclerc added.
‘So, we will see. It seemed a little bit better, but it’s not going to be easy because I feel like everybody is very close in the race pace.’