Ferrari had topped all three practice sessions at Hockenheim in the lead-up to qualifying, but Sebastian Vettel’s SF90 was immediately halted in Q1 by what was later diagnosed as a likely intercooler problem.
Leclerc progressed into the final qualifying segment but did not take to the track there, thwarted by a failure of the fuel pump driver module.
“In the car I felt bad for Seb at first because [an issue with] only one car it’s just a shame – but when we had the problem it was even worse,” Leclerc said.
“Obviously it’s a very difficult day for the whole team. I’ve been here in Baku when everything was sure of pole [before the crash], and these days happen.
“It’s just very difficult that both cars are out, the team doesn’t deserve it.”
Leclerc had topped Q1 but was outpaced by eventual pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton in the second segment. Nevertheless, he is convinced he could’ve challenged for pole if not for the issue.
“We were definitely very quick. In Q2 we had to keep a little bit the tyres, so I was confident for Q3 and unfortunately we don’t have the laps to show how quick we were. But I definitely believe it was one of those opportunities.”
Teammate Vettel described the failure that resigned him to the back of the grid for his home race as “very painful”.
“I’m pretty empty really, very bitter and disappointed, especially here, especially as the car was good,” he said.
“I had a good feeling yesterday, better this morning but didn’t put everything together, so I thought we had a really good chance.
“You never know but I think yes [pole was possible]. The car was good and we did some changes so it should have been great for this afternoon but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Team principal Mattia Binotto said neither technical issue will “affect any penalties tomorrow”, expressing full confidence that both cars will be fixed in time for the race.
“No doubt that we are very disappointed, because we got a good performance today. But disappointed even more, because those things should not happen, it’s a shame for our drivers and both of them, I think they could have done a very good quali today,” he said.
“Obviously what[ever] happens tomorrow, we feel the responsibility of it – I feel it personally, it is my responsibility. [It was] two different things, two different problems that never happened before.”
Leclerc, for his part, said he plans to be aggressive on Sunday, in order to make his Ferrari crew “happy again”.
“This is part of racing sometimes and these moments we need to be strong, the team needs to be strong,” he said.
“They need to keep smiling, with confidence tomorrow I’m sure we can do great things. We have a good car, it’s not going to be an easy day but I will give them something to smile about.”
Additional reporting by Diego Mejia