Leclerc surprised by Red Bull’s China pace

Charles Leclerc during practice for the Chinese GP

Red Bull’s pace in practice at the Chinese Grand Prix was a surprise to Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc.

Charles Leclerc is predicting a potential three-way battle for supremacy at the Chinese Grand Prix after admitting he was surprised by Red Bull’s pace in practice.

Sebastian Vettel topped the timesheets in FP1 for Ferrari and was second behind Mercedes rival Valtteri Bottas in the second session.

Red Bull performed strongly in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix but struggled to replicate that in Bahrain last time out.

However, Max Verstappen was fourth- and third-quickest in the two practice runs, leaving Leclerc chomping at the bit for a tussle between Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes.

“I think it will be very close, Mercedes and also Red Bull are actually quite close, so it will be an interesting battle,” the Ferrari driver said.

“Red Bull are definitely closer than we expected, so that’s good to see. It will be a good fight between the three teams, I think.”

Verstappen is predicting a much stronger showing from Red Bull after putting their Bahrain struggles down to a set-up issue.

“We are definitely closer and also I was quite happy with the car. So not much to complain about,” he said.

“[It’s] a bit too early to say [whether Red Bull can fight at the front] but it looks better than Bahrain so for sure, we’re happy for that.

“We found a problem over there so naturally expected it to be better here. Today we had a good balance in the car.”

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