In the first part of qualifying, the SF90s took to the track on Medium tyres. Sebastian was first to post a time in 1:26.154, with Charles next up doing a 1:25.628. On his second run, the Monegasque got down to a 1:25.533, while the German did a 1:25.898 on the Softs, with both men getting through to the next session.
In this part, Charles again went out on Mediums, while Seb stayed on the Softs he’d used in the first session. The former immediately posted an excellent 1:25.646, while his team-mate did a 1:26.529. The both pitted for new Softs, with which they will start the race. Charles got down to a 1:25.529 while Seb went through to Q3 courtesy of a 1:26.023.
In the 12 minutes of the top ten shoot-out, the Scuderia Ferrari drivers set out on the 5.891 kilometre long track on new Soft tyres. Sebastian was first out, doing a 1:25.787, followed a few seconds later by Charles doing a 1:25.616. After a change of tyres, Charles went better doing a 1:25.172, just 79 thousandths off Valtteri Bottas‘ pole time of 1:25.093 and 73 behind Lewis Hamilton who is second. Sebastian however was unable to improve and thus starts from sixth, behind Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly.
Charles Leclerc: “I am satisfied with our result because I think that we did the best we could and extracted the maximum from our car on this particular circuit. We struggled at the beginning of this weekend, especially with the front tyres, which already felt much better today.
“In terms of the strategy, we are happy with our choice to start the race on the soft compound. The cars ahead will be on mediums, which will hopefully mix things up a bit. The weather will also play an important role in the race and, together with the challenges the track itself poses, it should be an exciting one.”
Sebastian Vettel: “It’s been a bit of an up and down weekend for me and this afternoon, I struggled to get the most out of the car, as I couldn’t get a feel for it and I wasn’t happy with how it went. Lately, we have been clearly struggling on one lap pace. However, looking at our long run pace from free practice, I expect to be more competitive in the race tomorrow.
“It looks like Mercedes start favourite, but I think we can take the fight to the Red Bulls and then see what we can do from there.”
Mattia Binotto Team Principal: “We are definitely pleased with the performance of the car today, after the difficulties we experienced yesterday. Overnight, thanks to work in our simulator, we managed to modify the set-up. This meant the drivers found they had more confidence in the car, primarily because it was better balanced, especially the front end where it suffered yesterday.
“Charles’ lap was stupendous and he came so close to getting onto the front row. Tomorrow, we start on a different tyre compound to those around us, which was planned in order to add in another variable. We are well aware this will be a long race during which tyre wear will be a factor for everyone, but our hope is that we have found the right set-up to also allow us to go well over a long stint.
“As for Sebastian, in the final part of qualifying, he did not feel comfortable or confident with the car. That is a shame, as we believe that he could have qualified better.”