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charles leclertc belgian grand prix quaifying f1 standing in parc ferme

Leclerc: A bit of work to do to catch the Red Bulls

charles leclertc belgian grand prix quaifying f1 standing in parc ferme

When Ferrari need a driver to step up, Charles Leclerc tends to do so as he did today in qualifying for the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix.

And although he will start the 68th edition of the race in Belgium from pole position, Leclerc acknowledged that Max Verstappen was just too quick. Confused? Here’s why…

Although Leclerc was second quickest to the fastest man in qualifying today, aka Verstappen, the Ferrari ace will start the race on Sunday from pole position due to the Red Bull driver’s five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

Perhaps knowing that no matter what time Verstappen delivered Leclerc only needed to finish second on the timing screens. The Monegasque might have thought it wiser to go for it and risk it for nothing other than meaningless bragging rights. But the eight-tenths deficit to the Red Bull driver is telling.

Leclerc was chuffed with the result: “Not a bad qualifying for us, especially in those conditions it’s always tricky to put everything together. I put a lot of work in those conditions as I wasn’t comfortable a few races ago and it seems to have paid off.

“We went a bit too early for that last lap, pole was definitely not for us today and Max was too quick. We could have been a bit closer but we have a great starting position for Sunday.

“Q2 was really tricky. I had Kevin who hit the wall and then continued in front of me. I didn’t put a lap in early and then you have all the pressure on that last lap. I’m happy but there is still quite a bit of work to do to catch the Red Bulls.”

Leclerc: It’s always down to risk versus reward

ferrari leclerc sainz f1 hungary qualifying

Later in the Scuderia’s team report, Leclerc continued his summary: “On the one hand, it feels good because I struggled quite a bit in these conditions up until a few races ago and the hard work I put into my driving has paid off. I really felt at ease in the car.

“In Q3, we may have gone out a bit early, but at the end, it’s always down to risk versus reward, and we wanted to avoid any yellow flags. Our result is good, and we wouldn’t have been able to finish in front of Max. I expect him to catch up in the race on Sunday and with Checo in the mix, it will be a good challenge,” predicted Leclerc.

Sainz typically was lacking a couple of tenths when it really mattered in qualifying, this time a tenth and a bit shy of his Ferrari teammate. The Spaniard will line fourth on the grid as a result.

He reflected in the team report: “Tricky qualifying today with the changing conditions. Every time we were going out we found a completely different track. We managed to go nicely through Q1 and Q2 but in Q3 I didn’t put together my best lap, having a moment in T8-9 which cost me some positions.

“We’ll start P4 on Sunday, which isn’t bad, and anything can happen this weekend with the weather, so we’ll see what we can come up with for the race,” concluded Sainz.

Vasseur: So far, I think the team has done a very good job

ferrari leclerc sainz f1 hungary qualifying2

Team principal Fred Vasseur gave his observations: “Qualifying today was a bit chaotic, as we had to put everything together in just one lap in Q3, but overall it was a good session for us, if you take Max out of the equation, as he was flying, but we will start from P1 and P4 on Sunday which is a good starting point.

“We have not really been able to look at race set-up, because free practice was really wet and then we went into quali on Inters before finally being able to use slicks. But that was the case for all the teams, and it’s much better to start at the front than from the back.

“We saw huge differences in top speeds today, which means teams have gone for different options for Saturday and Sunday and we must wait and see what the weather will be for the rest of the weekend. I don’t want to make any forecasts for Sunday.

“We just have to do our best and try and get the most out of the car and the drivers. So far, I think the team has done a very good job, so on Sunday, we will focus on our own race rather than on what any others behind Charles might do,” Vasseur added.

Ferrari are in a three-way battle for third in the 2023 F1 Standings, 12 Rounds into the season. This is how it stands:

2023 F1 points graphic standings after Hungarian GP Round 11