The result of qualifying for the Formula 1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix was more disappointing than that of a week ago here at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix. When the race gets underway tomorrow at 14.10 local (15.10 CET) Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel will start from the fourth and sixth rows of the grid respectively.
It was clear before qualifying that the track would be slower than a week ago, mainly down to the wind, which gusted and made the cars even more difficult to drive. Both drivers began on the Soft tyres, the least suitable for race conditions, according to their performance in free practice. Leclerc set a solid 1:27.737, improving to 1:27.427, before pitting knowing he had done enough to make the cut to Q2. However, Sebastian was struggling more than expected, posting a 1:28.287 and then improving to a 1:28.190. The team thus decided to send him out on a new set of Softs on his SF1000, with which he made it through to the next phase with a 1:27.612.
Both drivers began on Medium tyres, aiming to get into the top ten on these tyres and therefore use them to start the race, as it was the best choice for the first stint. The Monegasque immediately posted a strong 1:26.709, to be safe for Q3, while the German struggled and stopped the clocks in 1:27.379. Sebastian therefore pitted for Softs in an attempt to improve. He managed to get his time down by three tenths thanks to the softer compound, posting a 1:27.078, but that was not good enough to get in the top ten. One positive aspect of this undoubtedly disappointing Saturday for Vettel is that he has a free choice of tyres for the race start. If he had made it through on the Softs, he would no doubt be making a very early pit stop tomorrow.
In the 12 minutes to decide the top five rows of the grid, Charles had two sets of new Softs at his disposal. On his first run, he stopped the clocks in 1:26.809 and then, on his second set, he improved in the first and third sectors getting down to 1:26.614, to secure eighth place on the fourth row.
Charles Leclerc: "I am definitely happy with the job I've done today, I think we extracted the maximum from the car, but it was not enough, as we are starting from P8 and I cannot be happy with that.
"So far, we have been struggling more than last week and we will be struggling a bit more in the race because of our aggressive downforce level. It's lower than everyone else's and will make our life difficult in terms of tyre management. Since yesterday we've made good progress on the Medium tyres that seemed very competitive today and on which we managed to get through to Q3, but as it stands, we seem to have lost something we had yesterday on the Soft tyres.
"Considering the degradation we had on the softer compound, it's going to be a difficult race for us, more so than last Sunday."
Sebastian Vettel: "We tried a lot of things and I was happy with my laps, but I don't think that there was any more to get out of the car today. I need more grip to go faster.
"Imust congratulate my engineers for improving the car compared to last weekend, but if you look at the stopwatch there is no difference. It seems we are stuck and of course it is disappointing to be in twelfth with that gap between our two cars. We are where we are for a reason, we are just not fast enough.
"It will be difficult tomorrow to fight for points but I will do my best."
Laurent Mekies, Sporting Director: "There can be no doubt this was a poor qualifying performance, given that our drivers are eighth and twelfth on the grid. On this very same track and in very similar conditions, we have taken a step back in terms of competitiveness compared to a week ago, in terms of our own performance and up against that of our main rivals this season. In particular, we were unable to use the softest Pirelli compound properly. Now we have to work out why, not so much for tomorrow, but for the rest of the season. It's definitely going to be a difficult race, with tyre management playing a key role.
"Compared to a week ago, there are more strategy choices on the table, which could create more opportunities and it will be down to us to exploit them. What is certain is that we will do all we can to bring home the best result possible."
Check out our Saturday gallery from Silverstone, here.