A poor qualifying for Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow at the first ever Qatar Grand Prix. Carlos Sainz was the only Ferrari driver to get through to the final phase, seventh fastest in Q3, while Charles Leclerc failed to make the cut and could do no better than 13th. After Leclerc’s car was checked, a crack was found in the chassis, probably as a result of going over the kerbs on the first run in Q1. It will now have to be changed. If all the work is done within the time allowed by the sporting regulations, Charles will still start from his qualifying position.
On the grid, the two Ferrari men will be close to the two McLaren drivers, their closest rivals in both championships. Norris starts directly ahead of Carlos and Ricciardo is right behind Charles. Another point to consider in terms of the race is that Carlos is one of only four drivers, the others being the top three on the grid, to get through to Q3 on the Medium tyre, which will allow greater flexibility in terms of race strategy during the 57 laps tomorrow afternoon.
Carlos Sainz #55
P7 is a good qualifying result, given where we were yesterday and it shows the progress we’ve made today with the car. In Q2 we took a big risk running twice with the Medium and thankfully it worked after a very strong first attempt. On Softs it would have been easier to get into Q3, but given our tyre degradation, we believe the Medium tyre is the best for our race, although I’ll be surrounded by Soft runners at the start and that is going to be extremely challenging. In Q3 I was able to put together a good lap but didn’t manage to improve on that P7.
The start on the clean side of the track is good news for tomorrow and we’ll try to strategically play our different tyre choice to maximise the result.
I feel like the huge effort made by the entire team yesterday to understand what we needed to address today has paid off, and that is another positive to take from this session. Now let’s focus on the race!
Charles Leclerc #16
This was definitely unexpected. If I am ever off the pace, I know if it was due to the balance not being right, or down to me making a mistake. But neither was the case today. I never felt that the tyres were in the right window and I was sliding around all the time, limited by the lack of grip. On top of that, the damage to the chassis caused by the kerbs in Q1 certainly didn’t help! So I have to sit down with the team and carefully analyse all the data to see if something significant was not working properly or can be improved.
We have lots of work ahead of us, especially for our mechanics and it won’t be an easy race tomorrow. Hopefully we can take advantage of starting with a free choice of fresh tyres.
Laurent Mekies, Racing Director
A difficult qualifying this afternoon, but having said that, we are well aware that our main aim in this final part of the season is to beat McLaren in the Constructors’ standings and the outcome of this session suggests we are pretty evenly matched.
Carlos did well, getting through to Q3 on the Mediums, the only driver to do so apart from those in the two teams fighting for the titles. It was a risky choice and luckily it all went well. We will see tomorrow if this works out for us. Charles didn’t feel happy with the car in this session so together, we will try and analyse why, studying every aspect scrupulously, so that we can try and put him in good shape for the race. On top of that, it’s clear the damage to the chassis that will now be replaced, influenced the car’s behaviour. Now the mechanics face a major task to get the number 16 car fixed in time.
One should not forget that on a new track like this, the experience gained lap after lap can make a difference, so the pecking order we saw today could still change. Furthermore, reliability will be even more crucial than ever, as we learned this afternoon to our cost. For our part, we will do our utmost to ensure any changes go in our favour, especially when up against our main rivals. Despite it having been a difficult day, it’s not over yet and we still have the opportunity to pick up plenty of championship points.