My call to run early for 'near-perfect' lap - Leclerc
Charles Leclerc revealed it was his decision to run early in Q3 in a move that saw him watch the latter part of the session from the pits having already set a "near-perfect" lap to claim fourth in qualifying for the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Leclerc set a scintillating time in a Ferrari that, on paper, should have struggled given the underpowered power unit that has hindered the Scuderia and its customer teams all season.
But after setting a lap that was only bettered by the two Mercedes and Max Verstappen's Red Bull, the Monegasque driver jumped out of his car and watched from the garage as the remainder of Q3 was played out.
Asked if he was surprised by his grid position, Leclerc said: "Yes, I was. I don't like to say it is a perfect lap because you can always do something better but honestly, everything I wanted to do, I did it.
"I didn't have a new set [of tyres]. I took the decision to go out early instead of waiting till the end of the session for a few reasons.
"First, I was expecting the traffic to be a mess at the end of the session and second, I just had the ideas clear and I just wanted to get out on the track and do a good job, which we did.
"To be honest, I don't think I could have done anything better going later in the session, so I'm extremely happy about today."
Sebastian Vettel will start only 13th, suggesting this was another instance of Leclerc massively outperforming what seems to be the general pace of the SF1000, with performances at Silverstone and Mugello also impressing.
But whilst the result is a positive for the team, Leclerc has warned against raising hopes to an unrealistic level and insisted the team must focus on extracting the maximum in the race.
"I think a few times this year we have been qualifying ahead of what we should have," Leclerc told Sky Sports F1.
"This brings us to have a lot of hope for Sundays and then we get frustrated in the car, but let's be realistic. We need to learn from it.
"It is going to be a difficult day. I don't think we will be as competitive as we were today. I don't think we are the fourth fastest car on track. Let's wait and see but I will try to maximise what I have."
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