Red Bull stronger than expected in China, says Leclerc

Ferrari Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc says he "definitely didn't expect" rival team Red Bull's performance in practice for the Chinese Grand Prix.

Red Bull stronger than expected in China, says Leclerc

Red Bull's lead driver Max Verstappen had outpaced the struggling Ferraris in Melbourne, but was well off the pace in Bahrain.

But despite the new RB15 chassis' patchy form, as well as the two long straights in Shanghai that could expose its new engine partner Honda's remaining deficit to the benchmark power units, Verstappen ended Friday practice in China a strong third, just 0.221s off the pace.

Leclerc, who was only seventh-fastest after his qualifying simulation was compromised by traffic, said: “I think it will be very close, Mercedes and also Red Bull are actually quite close, so will be an interesting battle.

“Red Bull are definitely closer than we expected, so that's good to see. It will be a good fight between the three teams, I think.”

Verstappen, who attributed Red Bull's disappointing Bahrain pace to a set-up error, said a much stronger showing in China was always on the cards once the issue was identified and addressed.

“We are definitely closer and also today I was quite happy with the car. So not much to complain,” Verstappen said.

“Bit too early to say [whether Red Bull can fight for the top] but it looks better than Bahrain so for sure, we’re happy for that.

“We found a problem over there so naturally expected it to be better here. Today we had a good balance in the car.”

Asked whether the Friday upturn came as a relief, he said: “Of course it's always a question mark, but we were all quite confident that if we solved that [problem] it would look a lot better. I think that showed again today. It's not too bad.”

Teammate Pierre Gasly, who has endured a tough start to his tenure at the main Red Bull team, was consistently off Verstappen's pace throughout the two Friday practice sessions at the Shanghai circuit.

The Frenchman, who ended the day nine tenths behind his squadmate, put the gap down to different programmes for the two cars and “testing a lot of parts in both sessions”.

“Basically testing different things and now we need to analyse clearly,” he explained. “They found some good directions and we’ll put the best parts on the car tomorrow.

“It was quite a lot of testing all day, trying to improve the development as much as we can.”

Additional reporting by Edd Straw

Pierre Gasly, Red Bull Racing RB15

Pierre Gasly, Red Bull Racing RB15

Photo by: Zak Mauger / LAT Images

shares
comments
Haas to strengthen front wings after FP2 failure

Previous article

Haas to strengthen front wings after FP2 failure

Next article

Engine installation error to blame for Giovinazzi missing FP1

Engine installation error to blame for Giovinazzi missing FP1
Load comments
Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence Prime

Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence

In the 1960s and 1970s, McLaren juggled works entries in F1, sportscars and the Indy 500 while building cars for F3 and F2. Now it’s returning to its roots, expanding into IndyCars and Extreme E while continuing its F1 renaissance. There’s talk of Formula E and WEC entries too. But is this all too much, too soon? Stuart Codling talks to the man in charge.

How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential Prime

How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential

Yuki Tsunoda arrived in grand prix racing amid a whirlwind of hype, which only increased after his first race impressed the biggest wigs in Formula 1. His road since has been rocky and crash-filled, and OLEG KARPOV asks why Red Bull maintains faith in a driver who admits he isn’t really that big a fan of F1?

Formula 1
Oct 15, 2021
The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages Prime

The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages

OPINION: After Lewis Hamilton responded to reports labelling him 'furious' with Mercedes following his heated exchanges over team radio during the Russian Grand Prix, it provided a snapshot on how Formula 1 broadcasting radio snippets can both illuminate and misrepresent the true situation

Formula 1
Oct 14, 2021
How F1’s pole winner approach undermines drivers Prime

How F1’s pole winner approach undermines drivers

OPINION: Valtteri Bottas is credited with pole position for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, despite being beaten in qualifying. This is another example of Formula 1 and the FIA scoring an own goal by forgetting what makes motorsport magic, with the Istanbul race winner also a victim of this in the championship’s recent history

Formula 1
Oct 13, 2021
Turkish Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Turkish Grand Prix driver ratings

On a day that the number two Mercedes enjoyed a rare day in the sun, the Turkish Grand Prix produced several standout drives - not least from a driver who has hit a purple patch of late

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for Turkey glory Prime

The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for Turkey glory

Starting 11th after his engine change grid penalty, Lewis Hamilton faced a tough task to repeat his Turkish Grand Prix heroics of 2020 - despite making strong early progress in the wet. Instead, his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas broke through for a first win of the year to mitigate Max Verstappen re-taking the points lead

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form Prime

How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form

A Formula 1 pitstop is a rapid-fire blend of high technology and human performance. PAT SYMONDS describes how the science of margin gains makes stops so quick

Formula 1
Oct 10, 2021
Why Mercedes' Istanbul edge is both stronger and weaker than it seems Prime

Why Mercedes' Istanbul edge is both stronger and weaker than it seems

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton dominated the opening day of action for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, on the Istanbul circuit’s much improved track surface. But the Black Arrows squad’s position isn’t quite what it seems. Here’s why...

Formula 1
Oct 8, 2021