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Leclerc highlights key issue in pace deficit to Red Bull

The Ferrari driver took a first podium of the season in Azerbaijan after a pair of pole positions across the weekend.

Charles Leclerc has revealed he was forced into protecting his Formula 1 tyres in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as he could "kill" them if he pushed throughout. The Ferrari driver started on pole in Baku, but was quickly passed, as expected by the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez sailed by, with Leclerc fighting for third. He would eventually claim his first podium of the season, fending off a late charge from Fernando Alonso, setting what was then the fastest lap late on before George Russell ultimately took the bonus point. And the Monegasque was asked about this sudden burst of pace - but explained that because of Ferrari's high tyre degradation, he was forced into looking after the Pirelli rubber.

Leclerc: Ferrari 'kills' it tyres

"Well, we have to with our car otherwise we kill [the tyres] and then we cannot get them back and then this has a big influence on our performance," Leclerc explained to media, including RacingNews365 when asked about the tyre life on the SF-23. "So, I think we did the perfect management today. But, we are just not quick enough. Whether we lack at the beginning of the stint, or at the end of the stint, this we can change but yeah, we just don't have enough performance for now. "At the end, it [was] the same car [in the sprint and Grand Prix], I managed it differently, but actually the outcome doesn't change. "We've optimised absolutely everything. The thing we should be happy about after a weekend like this is that we've maximised every session. "I don't think we could have done anything better in any of those sessions. So that is a positive – but still a lot of work to do in terms of race pace."

Ferrari behind Aston Martin

With Red Bull clear at the head of the field, Ferrari have been locked into a battle for second-best with Mercedes and Aston Martin - with Mercedes being strongest last time out in Australia. This time, it was Ferrari who were the closest challengers, but Leclerc felt that the Scuderia's race pace was still lacking compared to Alonso - who took three seconds out of him in the closing laps to finish just 0.807s behind. "We got closer, maybe a little bit, but we're still very far behind in race pace, and I think we're also behind Aston Martin in terms of race pace. "We really need to work on that for now, because over one lap, taking a bit more risks did two great laps in qualifying which helped us to be in front, but then over 51 laps in the race, there is not much we can do."

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