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Charles Leclerc

Leclerc reveals unusual 'negative' after Japan podium miss

Charles Leclerc missed out on a podium at the Japanese Grand Prix but was voted 'Driver of the Day'.

Leclerc race Japan
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Charles Leclerc was satisfied with finishing fourth in the Japanese Grand Prix but conceded that his qualifying performance was a "negative" for the second event in a row.

Leclerc made up four places at Suzuka after starting in eighth, with the Monegasque driver recognising that he failed to get his tyres into the right operating window in Q3.

The Ferrari driver was on an alternate strategy which saw him run deep into the race before making his one and only pit-stop, with his tremendous race pace having caught out McLaren, Mercedes and Aston Martin.

Leclerc was the only driver amongst the front-running teams to make a one-stop work, with Mercedes having failed miserably in their attempt.

He was in third as the race reached its closing stages, but was overtaken by team-mate Carlos Sainz who was running significantly fresher tyres. Had Leclerc qualified better, then a podium would have been a realistic outcome.

The 26-year-old was open in conceding that his recent qualifying performances are not good enough, something he is not used to, having been strong over one-lap throughout his career.

"I don't think there was anything better to do today," Leclerc told select media including RacingNews365. "But finally today, I'm very happy.

"I don't think there was anything we could have done better, the pace was really good, tyre management was really good, communication was really good. However, as a driver, you always have to look at the negative over the whole weekend.

"And whether it's in Australia or here, race pace has not been a problem. It's my qualifying pace, which is not something that I've not been very used to in my career to be working on my qualifying pace, because normally it's pretty good on the Saturday.

"However, two races now in a row, I've been struggling to put the tyres in the right window. This is definitely my main focus now going into Shanghai to try and re-find the right window of the tyres, and for me to put them more consistently inside that window."

'I'm not too concerned'

Particularly in his F1 career, Leclerc has been renowned for his sensational one-lap pace but that has been missing recently.

At Suzuka, he put his poor Q3 pace down to himself doing a "bad job" on his preparation lap.

Leclerc recognises he has time before the Chinese Grand Prix to go over the data, leaving him relaxed about his quali pace.

"My laps weren't that bad yesterday, the lap that I've done was actually really good," Leclerc added. But the grip that was available from the tyre was just not there.

"And this is because I do a bad job on the lap before, which is very frustrating because you've finished a lap and you're happy, but actually you're nowhere. So I've got to focus on that.

"It's very fine, like very little differences. However, I'm confident that by analysing the data, we've got a week before Shanghai, whenever I focus on something I'm quite good. I'm not too concerned, but I need to do this step forward for Shanghai."

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