Leclerc arrived at Paul Ricard after back-to-back pole positions at Monaco and Baku, but downplayed Ferrari’s chances of factoring in the fight up front when returning to a permanent circuit.
While Carlos Sainz Jr was able to qualify fifth on Saturday, Leclerc struggled more in qualifying, qualifying for Q3 after a tough final round in Q2.
Leclerc was heard over the team radio complaining about the front of his car in Q3 before securing seventh place, finishing 0.147 seconds off Sainz’s time.
Speaking in the written press at Paul Ricard after qualifying, Leclerc explained that the difficulties were more attributable to him than to the car, and that he had adjusted his approach to get around the problem.
“I just couldn’t get around the limitation that we had a bit all weekend, struggling a bit with the front,” said Leclerc.
“But to be honest, it’s more from me than from the car. It’s a limitation that Carlos and I had, and Carlos just did a better job of getting around that problem, and I struggled in qualifying to get around it.
“It’s more something that comes from me that I will analyze after qualifying, and to understand what I could have done better with my driving to help the car a bit today.
“In fact, I was pretty happy with my last lap in Q3, because before that it was a disaster. I was very, very far away.
“Then in Q3, I managed to find some time. It wasn’t enough, but I was able to find a little more time.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF21
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Sainz said he also struggled a bit with the front tires, finding it easy to get them out of the optimum temperature window.
“We are having a hard time like everyone else with the front tires which seem a little too soft,” said Sainz.
“It’s difficult to drive the tires to their maximum, it’s very easy to overheat them. I tried to stay disciplined, but I also struggled with the same [issue]. It is not easy.
“The important thing is that today, with every rubber and in every wind direction that changed during qualifying, I kind of knew how to adapt, how to change, and suddenly the weather the turn was coming.
Saturday’s result marked only the second time this season that Sainz has overqualified Leclerc. The Spanish rider was grateful for a clear qualifying, having been frustrated by the red flags in recent events which cost him the opportunity to secure a higher position on the grid.
“I have to say that today was also a bit of a relief after a couple of frustrating qualifying rounds where I couldn’t make a single lap to get the car’s full potential,” said Sainz.
“Coming here, I was really looking for a clean quality. No problem, no red flag, two or three good laps in Q2 and Q3. And that’s exactly what I managed to put in place today.
“All the way from Q1, in Q2 with the medium, to Q3, these are really good laps. And yes, a little relief, because it had been a couple of frustrating qualys lately.