By Abhishek Takle
MANAMA (Reuters) - Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc shone in Saturday’s qualifying for the Sakhir Formula One Grand Prix as the Monegasque pulled out a lap good enough for a shock fourth place on the grid.
The 23-year-old had only one set of tyres left to use during the final pole-position shootout phase of qualifying.
He made it count, though, putting in a 53.613-second lap that was bettered only by the dominant Mercedes cars and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
"I am so happy with fourth place," said Leclerc, who went out for his sole effort early in the session before parking up and watching the battle for pole from the pits.
"We took a chance by going out at the beginning of the session," he said. "We could have waited, but because of the risk of traffic and because I had a clear idea of what to do, I chose to go out immediately and I managed to put together a good lap.
"After that, I got out of the car because I had no more new tyres and I knew that realistically I could not beat the time I’d just set,” Leclerc, who will line up alongside Verstappen on the second row of the grid, added.
Leclerc’s Saturday display, which matched his best qualifying result this season, gave Ferrari something to celebrate at the end of a tough year.
But having sat out much of Friday’s second practice session with a driveshaft issue, whether he can convert that into a strong result in the race remains to be seen.
"Going into the race, I have to say it’s a bit of a step into the unknown…," said the two-times race winner, whose team mate Sebastian Vettel will start 13th after failing to make past the second phase of qualifying.
"I don’t think we have the third fastest car here, but I plan to make the most of my start position in this race.”
(Reporting by Abhishek Takle; editing by XXXX)