Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has played down his so-so post-stop pace during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, as he remained a subdued fifth.
Leclerc started from eighth on the Medium tyres, in the wake of crashing out in Q2, and recovered from a subdued first lap to take the lead when his opponents pitted.
Ferrari kept Leclerc out until he was reeled in and overtaken by the Mercedes drivers – who had already stopped – and once he made his mandatory tyre change, for Softs, he emerged in sixth.
The Monegasque driver quickly overhauled Pierre Gasly but was unable to make in-roads on the top four drivers and instead made an additional pit stop to chase the additional point for fastest lap, which he ultimately gained.
“Well I think a lot of people thought we were struggling, which I don’t think we were, because I just didn’t push to try and close the gap,” he said.
“I asked on the radio pretty earlier in this run whether there was any possibility to come back to the guys in front, and the answer was no because the gap was too big.
“From that moment onwards it was just about trying to keep the tyres and try to push for the fastest lap when I had the opportunity to do so.
“Don’t look at the pace from when we put the softs, it’s not our real pace; we were just trying to do the best lap.”
Leclerc believes fifth position was the best result possible in the wake of his costly crash in Q2.
“The fifth place, obviously when I’m looking at FP1, FP2, FP3 and quali, even though obviously FP1, FP2, FP3 is not very representative, I am disappointed because I felt great in the car,” he said.
“I think in the car there was definitely the potential to do pole position and I threw all our chances away by touching the wall.
“It is my mistake, I take the responsibility, and basically it was the best we could do from there.
“It’s a bit disappointing, but on the other hand I think there are some positives to take away from the weekend.
“I think quali pace was definitely stronger than China and race pace was also very close to Mercedes. Now we look forward, and I’m pretty sure we will come back even stronger in Barcelona.”