Charles Leclerc credits Sebastian Vettel for 1st pole

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc leaving the pit during yesterday's qualifying for the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Sakhir circuit. He is the second-youngest pole sitter after teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc leaving the pit during yesterday's qualifying for the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Sakhir circuit. He is the second-youngest pole sitter after teammate Sebastian Vettel.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

'Incredibly quick' Ferraris demote Mercedes to second row but Hamilton upbeat for race

MANAMA • Charles Leclerc has hailed his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel after he seized the first pole position of his Formula One career yesterday during qualifying for today's Bahrain Grand Prix.

"Seb is an amazing driver," said the Monaco driver, who joined the Italian outfit this season.

"I will learn a lot from him, but today I'm very happy to be in front of him.

"The car is amazing. I will try to finish the job tomorrow."

The Ferrari duo secured the front row for today's race and, at 21 years and 165 days, Leclerc is the second youngest pole sitter ever - the record held by Vettel who did it at 21 years and 73 days with Toro Rosso at Monza in 2008.

Vettel said: "Maybe I was a bit shy in the second sector, Charles did a very good job today and deserves to be on pole, it puts us in a great place for tomorrow. The main thing is we got the job done."

Five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton will start in third place for Mercedes alongside teammate Valtteri Bottas in fourth.

"Ferrari have been incredibly quick," said the Briton. "They have shown incredible pace, but that doesn't mean they can't be beaten. But well done to Charles."

Leclerc put in a mighty lap to ensure pole under the floodlights of the Sakhir circuit, displaying once again the pace that Ferrari have had in spades in Bahrain. He set a lap record of 1min 27.866sec, two-tenths clear of Vettel and a full three-tenths up on Hamilton.

The lap was inch-perfect, but the Scuderia had been on top all weekend, quickest in every practice session and had form that Leclerc exploited ruthlessly. He was quickest on the first hot laps in Q3, exactly matching the track record of 1.27.958 before going even quicker on his final run.

Bottas leads the drivers' standings on 26 points following his Australian Grand Prix win two weeks ago, ahead of Hamilton on 18.

Off the track, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto believes Formula One will reach a deal on wide-ranging changes from 2021, even if a few sticking points remain to be ironed out.

Formula One's governing body, commercial rights holders Liberty Media, teams and other stakeholders are discussing how the sport will be run once existing agreements expire at the end of 2020.

"I think that we are collaborating well with both the (governing) FIA and F1," Binotto, who replaced Maurizio Arrivabene as team principal in January, told reporters on Friday.

US-based Liberty Media, who took over in 2017, want to introduce a fairer system of revenue distribution and implement a cost-cap as part of their aim to create a more level-playing field and better racing.

Together with the FIA, it presented a global package of changes to teams in London on Tuesday, fleshing out an initial proposal put to them a year ago.

It also includes new sporting, technical and power unit rules.

"There are still points where there is some distance compared to the position on what we believe should be the right Ferrari position," said Binotto.

"But we are still discussing and I think it will be good for F1 to find the right agreement. I'm pretty sure we will do it."

  • BAHRAIN GP GRID

  • 1ST ROW

    1 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari

    2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari

    2ND ROW

    3 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes

    4 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes

    3RD ROW

    5 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull

    6 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas

    4TH ROW

    7 Carlos Sainz Jr. (Spa) McLaren

    8 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas

    5TH ROW

    9 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo

    10 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren

    SELECTED

    11 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault

    12 Alexander Albon (Tha) Toro Rosso

    13 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull

Ferrari are a key player in negotiations surrounding the sport's future. They are Formula One's oldest and most successful team and enjoy special privileges and financial benefits as a result of their historic status. Reluctant to give up their privileges, they have in the past threatened to quit over any watering down of their benefits.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX

Race day: Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208, 10pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 31, 2019, with the headline 'Leclerc credits Vettel for 1st pole'. Print Edition | Subscribe