Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc were left disappointed after qualifying fifth and seventh respectively, for the 2023 Australian Grand Prix on Saturday, suggesting sandbagging by Mercedes while. once again. they failed to bridge the gap to Red Bull.
Reigning champion Max Verstappen powered comfortably to pole position for Red Bull, with Mercedes driver George Russell second and sharing the front row for Sunday’s race at Albert Park after qualifying second ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Sainz, who will start in fifth behind fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso, told Sky F1 that Mercedes were much closer to contention than most realised: “They are a lot faster than what people think, that car is quick. It is clearly not as quick as Red Bull, no one is, but if they put qualifying together they can be a very strong package.”
As for his chances on Sunday, Sainz in the Ferrari team report: “We have worked on different setup configurations during the weekend and tomorrow we’ll see what we can do during the race. It won’t be an easy one, but we will try to move up from our grid positions and bring home a good result!”
Leclerc: I just didn’t put everything together
In the other Ferrari, Leclerc admitted he was frustrated after being caught behind Sainz during Saturday’s third qualifying session, hampering his lap time: “I don’t know what happened in the second round of Q3, whether it was a miscommunication with Carlos but I found myself behind him for the first sector, which wasn’t great.”
However, Leclerc said the Ferrari was performing better around Albert Park than in its outing in Jeddah two weeks ago, blaming his own performance today for his qualifying position as well as the miscommunication with Sainz.
“I feel like we are quite competitive, but I just didn’t put everything together,” Leclerc explained. “Honestly, the feeling is better, but again today I’m not particularly happy about the way I drove.”
Echoed his teammate on the setup direction of the SF23’s race setup, the Monegasque revealed: “We tried different configurations of set-up and worked on our race pace, so I look forward to fighting for some positions
“I think the car was actually quite good,” insisted Leclerc who, last season, won the Grand Prix in Melbourne, starting from pole position for Ferrari that day. (Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Additional Reporting by GP247)