Charles Leclerc was surprised to run Mercedes so closely in qualifying for the British Grand Prix on Saturday after finishing just eight-hundredths of a second shy of Valtteri Bottas's pole position lap.

Ferrari driver Leclerc entered the Silverstone race weekend anticipating a resurgence from Mercedes, but looked to be in the fight for pole entering qualifying after impressing in final practice.

Leclerc sat P4 after the first runs in Q3 after making an error on his initial lap, only to then put together a strong final lap at the chequered flag that lifted him to third, 0.079 seconds shy of Bottas on pole, with Lewis Hamilton splitting the duo.

Speaking after qualifying at Silverstone, Leclerc said he did not believe there was anything more in his car to have possibly grabbed pole, and expressed his surprise at the result.

"I'm very, very happy with my lap. I think in the last corner, I maybe could have done a little bit better but not much," Leclerc said.

"Overall I think we are very happy with the performance, very close to Mercedes. We did not expect it, we thought we would be struggling more this weekend.

"We have been struggling since FP1 with the front end of the car, still in qualifying but a little bit less. So yeah, it’s a good qualifying session for us. Of course we hope for a higher position, but third I think was quite good today."

Ferrari struggled with its long-run pace in practice on Friday, suffering extreme tyre wear, causing Leclerc to cast doubt on a possible challenge to the Mercedes drivers ahead. 

"If we look at the Friday race simulations, I think it’s going to be very difficult - at least Lewis’s race run was very, very strong," Leclerc said.

"We need to work on that. Red Bull seems to be very quick also in the race, so it’s going to be tricky. If we can manage to gain some positions at the start, it’s a track that’s quite hard to overtake, so then we have some chance.

"But if not, I guess it’s going to be very difficult to beat [Mercedes]."

 

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