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Charles Leclerc

Leclerc surprised by pole: We were sure Red Bull would be quicker!

Charles Leclerc edged out Max Verstappen for pole position in Bahrain as Ferrari and Red Bull went head-to-head.

Leclerc Pole Bahrain
To news overview © Pirelli

Charles Leclerc expressed his delight at claiming pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix after an "incredibly difficult" couple of seasons for Ferrari.

Having traded times throughout practice, Leclerc and Red Bull rival Max Verstappen went toe-to-toe in qualifying, with the Monegasque coming out on top.

It built on plenty of pre-season promise for the Scuderia, which endured a dreadful 2020 campaign before sacrificing much of 2021 to focus on the all-new 2022 regulations.

"It feels good!" Leclerc beamed after claiming his first pole since Azerbaijan last year.

"The last two years have been incredibly difficult for the team. We were quite hopeful that this was an opportunity to be back in the front and I think we have worked extremely well as a team to find ourselves again in a position to fight for better places."

He added: "I'm very happy with today. It's been a very tricky qualifying session. I wasn't completely happy with my driving, but I managed to do that lap in Q3, and we're starting from pole!"

Ferrari still wary of Red Bull ahead of race day

Leclerc added that taking pole was somewhat surprising for himself and Ferrari, given the pace displayed by Verstappen and Red Bull in practice, and has vowed to keep his feet on the ground for the Grand Prix.

"We were pretty sure that Red Bull was going to be a bit quicker than us, also in qualifying," Leclerc went on to comment.

"But yeah, it's a good surprise that it wasn't the case! Now we need to finish the weekend on a high tomorrow, but it's not going to be easy.

"Tyre degradation here is the [main] thing, especially with this increase of weight [on the cars] that there is this year, so we need to focus on that and hopefully have a good race."

Pushed on Ferrari's race pace relative to Red Bull, Leclerc said: "I will still stay cautious. I mean, the pace is there, but the race is long and anything can happen, so we need to stay on it."

Leclerc's teammate, Carlos Sainz, completed the top three positions in the other Ferrari.

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