While Leclerc has come into the Jeddah weekend knowing that he faced a 10-place grid penalty, it still meant he had to push things to the max to ensure he did not start too far down the order.
But while he got within 0.15 seconds of Perez as he finished qualifying in second, the weekend has not delivered much cause for optimism for the Monegasque.
With Ferrari having not appeared to have the potential to overcome Red Bull, and knowing that Max Verstappen had been so strong in practice prior to the driveshaft problem that put him out in Q2, Leclerc remained realistic about the gap to the front.
“Happy? Yes and no,” said Leclerc, who will start the race in 12th place. “On one hand, I think it’s been a very difficult weekend in terms of pace for us. But I’m very happy about my lap. I think I put everything in it. It was really, really on the limit.
“On the other hand, Red Bull are on another planet. And we are struggling a little bit. So, we need to keep pushing. But that’s what we are doing as a team.
“Tomorrow is not going to be easy. I have a 10-place grid penalty. So we’ll be starting a little bit further back. But we’ll focus on the race and hopefully come back in the front as quickly as possible.”
While Ferrari spent much of its focus in qualifying on sorting out its race pace, having struggled so much in Bahrain, Leclerc did not see an easy route forward.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23
Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images
“The race pace looks quite good,” he said. “But it’s very difficult to compare, because in FP2, everybody has a very different program.
“So, we will see. It seemed a little bit better, but it’s not going to be easy because I feel like everybody is very close in the race pace.”
Perez said that qualifying had been pretty straightforward for him, as the key was simply staying out of trouble to deliver a clean lap.
“It was tricky that Q3, especially not getting that second lap,” said the Mexican. “Q1 was quite good: it was quite clean, and really clean nailing that lap.
“You really feel the F1 cars coming alive in this place and just maximizing that lap was very important because, with the issue we had into the final run, it was really important as the track was improving.”
Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at Motorsport.com – Formula 1 – Stories…