Charles Leclerc narrowly missed out on yet another pole position at the 2023 Saudi Arabian GP.
The Monegasque, however, will take a 10-place grid penalty for new power unit components, putting him in P12 for the race.
Leclerc proved his team has the pace to appear on the front row in Jeddah but will miss out on this opportunity due to his grid penalty. The Ferrari driver had a woeful time in all three practice sessions this weekend but showed his true pace in qualifying.
Max Verstappen was once again the talking point of the session, but not due to his incredible pace. The Dutchman suffered a driveshaft issue in Q2, causing him to bow out of qualifying. The Red Bull driver will start the race in P15, while his teammate Sergio Perez took pole position for the second consecutive year in Jeddah.
Charles Leclerc claims his team is still struggling in comparison to Red Bull but is proud of the lap he put in at the end of Q3.
Speaking to Khalil Beschir in Parc Ferme after the event, Charles Leclerc said:
"Happy? Yes and No. On one hand it has been a very difficult weekend in terms of pace for us but I am very happy about my lap. I think I really put everything in it. It was really on the limit. On the other hand, Red Bull are on another planet. And we are struggling a little bit."
"We need to keep pushing, but that's what we are doing as a team. Tomorrow is not going to be easy. I have a 10 grid places penalty so we will be starting a little bit further back but we will focus on the race."
Charles Leclerc dismisses claims that Ferrari should give up in 2023
Charles Leclerc has rejected the idea that Ferrari should abandon their pursuit of the 2023 F1 title and shift their attention to the 2024 season. Despite not performing well in Bahrain, where he lagged behind Max Verstappen by over half a second in race trim and was forced to retire due to a power unit failure, the Ferrari driver remains committed to the current season's objectives.
Adding to his troubles, Leclerc is burdened with a ten-place grid penalty in Jeddah for taking new power unit components. As a result, the driver will start in P12, just three places ahead of his 2022 title rival Max Verstappen.
When suggested by Motorsport.com that Ferrari could start focusing on the 2024 season, Charles Leclerc shot back:
"We are only at the beginning of the World Championship, and there are so many races before the end of this season; we have to fight like crazy to get back to the top and keep pushing. I really believe we can fight this season, because we only did the first race."
Charles Leclerc added:
"Sure, it didn't go as we wanted, and when Ferrari doesn't go as it should, then there are many rumours around the team, but we have to be positive and spend our energies wisely."
"We have to push in the same direction, make a difference and come back stronger. I think all of this has been the case over the last few weeks, so I can't wait to get back on track, stop talking and get back to riding.
It will be interesting to see if Charles Leclerc can hold off a charging Max Verstappen in Sunday's main race.