Red Bull swept the front row at Sakhir with Max Verstappen on pole and his teammate Sergio Perez alongside.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are behind in third and fourth, but instead of focusing on consolidating those positions and defending against Aston Martin and Mercedes who are behind, Clear is adamant that Ferrari is looking ahead .
Crucially, Leclerc saved a set of new soft tires for the start by sacrificing his final run in Q3, a decision made in the pre-qualifying briefing and one the team stood by.
Clear, whose official job title is driving instructor for Leclerc, believes Ferrari is more competitive than many have realised.
“We think Red Bull really has a small lead over the rest of the field here at the moment,” said Clear. “I think if Charles had run again yesterday he might have been able to sniff it. But I think we were happy with our decision. So maybe we’re closer to them than people think.
“I think today we’re pretty happy to bring the race to them, I don’t think we’re looking over our shoulder just trying to stay in third place.
“We’re going to try Perez and if we can match Perez in the first stint I think we can pursue Max for the rest of the race. I think we can make a race out of it.
“So where do they have an advantage over us? Well they have a tenth and a half in qualifying. That’s all we know at the moment but in the race I think we can bring the race to them.”
The top three qualifiers Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Tire degradation was a Ferrari weakness last year and the team worked hard to address it, although Clear has indicated it was made worse by the fact Leclerc and Sainz had to push so hard to keep up with the improving Red Bull Keep up.
“We worked a lot on our tire management last year,” he explained. “At the end of the year I think we have made very good progress. We worked on that again over the winter and during the three days of testing last week.
“Hopefully we can manifest that today by actually challenging Red Bull over the race distance. We saw yesterday that they are likely to have a small lead over us in a qualifying round.
“But I really think Charles this afternoon if he sniffs these Red Bulls he and Carlos can take the fight to them.
“Today we are not assuming that Red Bull is uncatchable.
“I think a week ago some media outlets suggested that maybe it’s all over. I think, as you have seen, we don’t believe in that at the moment. We want to show that this afternoon.”
Clear also said that Ferrari has improved its straight line speed, which will be an important tool in the battle with Red Bull.
“Initially, but we’re happy with the development we’ve had on our engine side, I think we’ve done a good job,” he said.
“That probably has something to do with it. We cleaned up the car in terms of towing, because last year it looked a bit like that [Red Bull] were on top. So we tried to address that as well.
“Obviously you never know exactly where people’s straight-line speed is coming from, whether it’s from more engine power or more or less drag.
“We don’t want to go into the race with the feeling that the car behind us has a 6 km/h advantage, as we saw at times last year. So definitely a step forward.”