Charles Leclerc risked it all in Q2 at the Portuguese Grand Prix to go through on the mediums tyres, and thus start the race on the more durable rubber. But after failing to make significant headway as he moved from eighth on the grid to sixth at the flag, Leclerc said that Ferrari had plenty of work to do to catch up to their ascendant rivals McLaren.
Leclerc was the only driver outside of the Red Bull and Mercedes foursome to make it through Q2 at Portimao on the medium tyres, meaning that, although he could only manage P8 in Q3, the Monegasque was seen as something of a dark horse for the race.
But according to Leclerc, struggles for Ferrari in switching on those medium tyres meant that neither car was a real threat in the race, Leclerc finishing sixth as team mate Carlos Sainz fell from his P5 starting position to P11 – with Lando Norris the fastest midfielder for the third race in a row in fifth.
“We’ve been struggling a lot on the medium with both cars, so we need to understand this, because that put us on the back foot today unfortunately,” said Leclerc after the race.
“Apart from that, on the hard [tyre] we were quite competitive. Driving-wise, it’s definitely the session in which I’ve been driving the best this weekend; I’ve been struggling a lot in free practice, qualifying and finally I managed to do some good laps during the race. So personally, quite happy but I cannot be satisfied with P6 and we need to keep working to understand what happened with the medium tyres.”
Norris’ fifth place in Portugal, coupled with a P9 for team mate Daniel Ricciardo, meant that McLaren scored 12 points to Ferrari’s eight in Portimao – the gap between the third and fourth-placed teams stretching to 11 points. But Leclerc was generous in his praise for the job that Norris in particular was doing at McLaren, as he called on Ferrari to work hard to bridge the gap to their old rivals.
“For now they are a bit ahead of us so we need to catch up, we need to keep working,” said Leclerc. “Lando is doing a great job – he hasn’t done any mistakes so far, and this pays off. We need to try and do the same thing now.”