Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc was relieved to be on the pace again in Sunday's Qatar Grand Prix, after admitting to being confused about where he was losing time in qualifying.
While teammate Carlos Sainz made it into Q3, having run the Medium compound in Q2, Leclerc was almost a full second slower than his teammate on the same compound. Despite running the Soft tyre for the final runs, Leclerc was eliminated down in 13th.
Following qualifying, Ferrari discovered that Leclerc's chassis had picked up a crack, possibly from a kerb during the first Q1 run. As a result, they changed the chassis and managed to get the work done in time on Sunday without taking a grid penalty.
With Leclerc employing a one-stop strategy for the race, he made a strong start to pick off Kimi Raikkonen. Pierre Gasly's early stop moved Leclerc up another place, and he climbed to ninth when Sergio Perez committed to a two-stop strategy.
With Leclerc pitting on Lap 27/57, he spent the remainder of the race inheriting places as punctures occurred for the likes of Valtteri Bottas and Lando Norris, eventually putting him eighth, just behind Sainz.
"The feeling was much better"
Leclerc expressed his relief at the situation and is hoping for a trouble-free run to the end of the season.
"The feeling was much better today. Obviously, yesterday, I felt quite off, and today, the feeling was good straight away from the beginning," Leclerc explained to media, including RacingNews365.com.
"The race was a bit tricky starting from P13, being behind a group of cars, especially on the first stint. Then, on the second stint, I found a bit of free air and we could show our pace, and that was strong, even though we had to manage the tyres to get to the end.
"Overall, the pace was there today, it was just a shame that we started so far back. Hopefully, the last two races will just be [about putting] everything together, qualifying and the race.
"I'm happy about the pace today, but then, obviously, not extremely happy to finish P8, as that's not that exciting."
Original chassis will be repaired
With just two races remaining, Ferrari don't expect Leclerc's original chassis to return to action in Saudi Arabia or Abu Dhabi.
Team Principal Mattia Binotto confirmed that the chassis will be repaired and kept to hand as a spare, but Leclerc will stick with his Qatar race chassis for the final two rounds. The original chassis may, however, be used for the Abu Dhabi test in the days following the Grand Prix.
Having recovered strongly on Sunday, Leclerc is unconcerned about using a different chassis for the remainder of the season.
"No, no, I didn't have any concerns once I knew the chassis was changed," he explained.
"It's not a thing where you have much difference when you are going to another chassis. If it's the same spec, it's normally easy to refind the same thing [balance]."
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