Charles Leclerc believes he could have been further up the grid for the 2023 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix had his teammate not been ahead of him on his last lap.
The Monegasque driver struggled to put together a good lap all afternoon in his Ferrari, which has often been one of his strengths throughout his F1 career. He eventually qualified seventh, behind Lance Stroll, after not getting a clean lap on his final go.
Leclerc was left to rue what could have been after Carlos Sainz, who was on a warm-up lap, spent the entire first sector ahead of him, causing Leclerc to lose some downforce and therefore lap time.
“Honestly, in Q1 and Q2 I didn’t do a good job in terms of driving so there I just had to put everything together,” Leclerc told the media after qualifying.
“Normally I can put everything together in Q3, but this time we thought the rain was coming for the second run so I went straight away without doing a preparation lap which wasn’t ideal for the tyres.
“I also found myself behind Carlos for the whole first sector which is something I hope we will look into as a team because this cost us quite a bit.”
It came as something of a surprise to see Ferrari behind both Aston Martin and Mercedes over one lap, but Leclerc hinted that they had compromised their setup to favour their long-run speed.
“I think we have quite a good race car on my side,” Leclerc continued. “Maybe we compromised the quali pace for the race pace so let’s see how it goes.”
Leclerc won the Australian GP in 2022 after both Red Bull cars failed to finish, but 12 months on and Max Verstappen seems untouchable while Sergio Perez will have to come through the field from the back.