Charles Leclerc pinpoints two major errors that cost Ferrari in Australian GP qualifying

Charles Leclerc was fastest in both FP2 and FP2, and was expected to challenge for pole position in Australia

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Ferrari star Charles Leclerc held his hands up for making a costly error in qualifying for the Formula 1 2024 Australian Grand Prix and confessed he did not expect Red Bull to be so fast in Melbourne.

The Monegasque driver is one of the most skilled drivers over one lap but he struggled to produce his best form on Saturday and could only manage fifth fastest, with Max Verstappen completing a hat-trick of pole positions in 2024 so far.

It appeared as if Leclerc would have the pace to match the Dutchman after going quickest in FP2 on Friday. But the 26-year-old was short of pace after struggling to find his rhythm in the SF-24 and ultimately fell short in his final two runs in the Q3 shootout session on Saturday.

Reflecting on his performance in qualifying, Leclerc made no attempt to hide his frustration with his own display – conceding he was too aggressive with his setup in trying to rival Verstappen for pole, which led to him making errors on the track.

Charles Leclerc during practice for the 2024 Australian GP | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office
Charles Leclerc will start fourth on the grid for the 2024 Australian GP | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

“We perhaps underestimated the power of the Red Bull in qualifying and in FP3, so pole would have been difficult,” Leclerc said to Sky Sport Italy. “But I didn’t maximise the car, that’s clear.

“I didn’t do a good job in FP3 and I lost the feeling with the car, but I still managed to do the lap and I was confident that in qualifying that feeling would return. Instead, I lost it further.

“Yesterday the front was very good, this morning we lost it a bit and in qualifying a lot. On the last run I went very aggressive with the front wing, but we probably went in the wrong direction. I wanted to try it, but looking back I probably should have settled for third place and stayed in front.”

A small boost for Leclerc

Leclerc will start behind Verstappen, team-mate Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris knowing that his best realistic chance is getting a podium from Sunday’s race, with Verstappen poised to dominate from the front.

He has, however, been promoted to P4 on the grid after Sergio Perez was handed a three-place grid penalty by the stewards for impeding Nico Hulkenberg.

He already has one podium finish to his name in Saudi Arabia to follow his fourth-place finish in Bahrain, and it is clear Ferrari have the upper hand over Mercedes, who pipped them to second in the constructors’ last year.

But Leclerc believes they are still some way behind Red Bull, and the Scuderia star believes it would take something out of the ordinary to prevent Verstappen from taking his 10th F1 victory in a row at Albert Park.

“There are four DRS zones, so for tomorrow anything is possible. We’ll see, but the race pace isn’t bad, so the podium is always the goal,” Leclerc added. “Realistically, victory is difficult, even starting second like Carlos will. I think Red Bull’s pace is better than ours, except in case of a surprise tomorrow.”

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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