Leclerc casts doubt on pole chances, Sainz explains Bahrain practice spin

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Charles Leclerc admits Ferrari may not be able to challenge for pole position after practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Monegasque was fourth fastest in the more representative second session on Friday, four-tenths off surprise pacesetter Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin.

But after failing to find the "sweet spot" of the new SF-23 in pre-season testing, Leclerc was feeling more at home behind the wheel. 

"Our first practice day went okay," he surmised, "we completed a lot of laps and I feel more and more comfortable in the car, which is positive.

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"The feeling is better than testing. On my side in testing, it's been very inconsistent in the way we run the car because we were testing a lot of things, so I didn't have much time with the car to my liking. I did today."

A year ago, Leclerc and Ferrari emerged to claim pole position in the season-opener at Sakhir. But asked if a repeat was possible on Saturday, the 25-year-old was doubtful.

"It is still difficult to tell where we stand as everyone seems to have been running very different plans, but we are focusing on ourselves and will keep pushing in the right direction," he explained.

"There's a bit of margin [for improvement], but I don't think we have the performance maybe for pole."

230070 scuderia ferrari bahrain gp 2023 friday

As for teammate Carlos Sainz, his Friday went in the opposite direction as balance issues sapped some of his confidence from testing.

"A trickier Friday than we initially expected," the Spaniard reflected. "The balance was different and we were changing the car through the sessions to try and correct its main limitations."

This was highlighted by a spooky spin approaching Turn 10 after Sainz went slightly wide.

"[I was] scrubbing the medium tyres, which we wanted to get rid of in FP1 to use the softs in the night session," he said. "It didn't go to plan, clearly. It wasn't intentional.

"It was a test that went wrong. I lost a bit of track time, I lost a bit of freedom and probably paid the price in FP2. Still, the car doesn't feel the same as it did in testing.

"[But] it’s only Friday and I’m confident we can analyse everything overnight and take a step forward tomorrow."

In the first session, Ferrari was also seen trialling a single-pillar rear wing that was swaying considerably horizontally before the team reverted back to their double-pillar design.

"It’s a test item that we were not able to do last week," team boss Fred Vasseur said.

"We wanted to test it this morning, but it was not so positive, let’s say. We won’t race it again this weekend, but we will be back soon with this concept."