Ferrari’s new boss Frederic Vasseur was keeping a low profile following the qualifying session in Bahrain. Whilst a number the team principals were quizzed by the media on how their drivers had performed, Vasseur was locked away in the Ferrari hospitality area.
Charles Leclerc surprisingly topped the timesheets in Q1 and Q2 ahead of the Red Bull pairing and with two sets of fresh soft tyres was set well for the pole position duel to come.
Verstapen’s struggles continued
Verstappen’s weekend long struggles appeared to be ongoing as he failed to match the lightning pace of the Ferrari.
With only both Red Bull’s and the Ferrari’s having two sets of fresh rubber left for Q3, the rest if the drivers’ sat out the first runs as LeClerc, Sainz, Perez and Verstappen battled it out.
LeClerc was P2 ahead of Perez but behind Verstappen after the first run as the teams with only one fresh set of soft tyres laid down their challenge.
Alonso ahead of both Mercedes
Alonso managed to squeeze briefly into fourth but Hamilton was beaten by team mate Russell and the injured Lance Stroll was a respectable 05.s behind his fellow Aston Martin driver.
Then with minutes to go, out went the Red Bull pairing together with Sainz but LeClerc jumped out of his car and removed his helmet at the back of the garage.
All the talk was of yet another technical problem for Ferrari until David Coulthard interviewed the top 3 drivers. When quizzed as to whether his car had a problem by the Scottish commentator, LeClerc replied, “No there wasn’t any issue.”
LeClerc gives up on pole
“I think we were in the fight for poll which was a good surprise to be honest because I did not expect that after testing and the three practices, which were a little bit difficult.
“We managed to find that pace for the qualifying lap which was great. However, we need to keep in mind on the race run we are a little bit on the back foot compared to Red Bull. And I think we are in a better place starting third with new tyres than first with old or a bit further up.”
Either Charles or the new head of Ferrari strategy appeared to have decided to save a fresh set of tyres for the race – rather than try in vain to beat Verstappen to pole position.
Tifosi fury as Ferrari capitulate
The apparent capitulation by LeClerc and the team did not sit well with some Ferrar fas on social media who were incandescent with fury.
And @maraneIlo said: “Ferrari you’ll pay for your crimes.”
Another wrote, @lentaholly said: “Ferrari you’re kidding me.”
However, the irony that Ferrari may have made a smart strategic move given the copious blunders from 2022 was not lost on some.
Irony recognised by some over Ferrari strategy
@rossitocarlito, commented: “Ferrari strategised so hard after never having a strategy we thought it was a technical failure.”
The teams have two sets less tyres for the GP weekends this season all part of the FIA’s green agenda.
However, F1’s governing body may end up with egg on its face if this leads to repeated anti climatic pole position shoot outs where teams decide they are better served saving rubber and not competing out on track.