Charles Leclerc says watching onboards of Pierre Gasly in FP3 allowed him to gain sizeable lap time in the middle sector of the Sakhir F1 circuit as he qualified fourth in Bahrain.

Leclerc stunned everyone with his first lap in Q3 as he slotted in ahead of the two Mercedes into second behind Max Verstappen.

The Ferrari driver ultimately dropped to fourth as the Valtteri Bottas and George Russell improved on fresh soft tyres but it was still an impressive effort from Leclerc at a track which wasn’t expected to suit the SF1000.

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Speaking after qualifying, Leclerc revealed he watched footage of Gasly’s lines through Turns 7 and 8 and applied them to his own driving in qualifying.

“Yes, I was [surprised],” Leclerc said. “I don’t know, I don’t like to say it’s a perfect lap. You can always do something better but honestly, everything I wanted to do, I did it. I was scared because I broke very very late into the first corner but managed to make the corner anyway, and had a good exit too. I think I got a snap in Turn 4 and then I thought ‘oh my God, I don’t know if the tyres will last to the end of the lap’ and here I was very quick.

“I did such a huge step from FP3 to quali there in terms of driving, using a lot more the track in the entry on the kerb on the right [to Turn 7] looking at Pierre Gasly’s onboard actually after FP3 so thanks, Pierre. The last corner, which I have been struggling in the whole quali, I finally managed to do it well also in my last lap.”

It’s the fourth time Leclerc has qualified P4 on the grid in 2020 but Ferrari has often lacked the pace to maintain his high starting position.

Looking ahead to the race, Leclerc doesn't fancy his chances.

“I think a few times this year we’ve been qualifying ahead than what we probably should have and this brings us to a lot of hope for Sunday and then get frustrated in the car on Sunday but let’s be realistic,” Leclerc added. 

“We need to learn from it. Tomorrow is going to be a difficult day. I don’t think we will be as competitive as we are today. I don’t think we are the fourth fastest car on track so let’s wait and see but I will try and maximise what I have.”