Charles Leclerc will start the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix from third on the grid, after a tantalising close qualifying session, the Ferrari driver adamant that the great Italian team have taken a step forward in recent races.
For a second race in a row, Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz will start from pole position with the Mercedes of George Russell in P2 splitting the Red cars, but the margins are very slim. A tiny 0.079s was the difference between P1 and P2 at the end of an enthralling qualy at Marina Bay Circuit.
Speaking in parc ferme after the floodlit session, Leclerc said: “It’s extremely difficult as everywhere, here probably more so, with overheating in the lap. It’s always a balance between the first and last sector.
“Everything was super close, Mercedes were really strong today too. Unfortunately, I missed it just a little bit to gain a few positions. Carlos did a great job to get 1-3 for the race when the physical challenge is going to be something for sure. Up until now, we have had a very good performance. We did not expect to be this competitive on a track like this. This is a good sign for the future.”
As for the matter at hand, Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix, Leclerc told reporters: “The physical challenge is going to be something for sure. It’s extremely warm, and extremely humid. Until now, we’ve had a very good performance. Honestly, we did not expect to be so competitive on a track like this. So this is a good sign for the future. But yeah, let’s see what we can do,” added Leclerc.
Since the end of the summer break, Ferrari have found something extra as evidenced by pole position at high-speed Monza where the Reds annexed the front row to the delight of the long-suffering Tifosi, and again this evening at Marina Bay. It’s a definite resurgence by the Italian team.
Leclerc acknowledged: “Again, this weekend, it feels particularly good and much better than the high downforce tracks in the past. As I’ve said before, I think we found something in Monza that should go a step forward but definitely not as much as what we’ve seen this weekend.”
Charles: We shouldn’t get carried away
“So I think our car is fitting these track characteristics in particular. And, yeah, we shouldn’t get carried away and I am not enough confident now to say that it will be the case for the rest of the season. Have we made a step forward? Yes. Will it be like that until the end of the season? It’s too early to say,” added Leclerc.
As for what a ‘wounded’ Verstappen can do from mid-grid, Leclerc is wary: “I don’t think you can ever discount Max and Red Bull. They might turn up with a race pace that they’ve had there all season, and still managed somehow to make through the field.
“But, for sure, around here, they have a much more difficult task. And it’s a much better opportunity than Monza, for example. I think tomorrow the race is going to be between the top five cars that we’re starting.
“I think it is true that George has this extra medium tyre but we could also do a two-stop as the Soft didn’t look too bad. Yeah, I think it will be a tough race to manage, a tough race to put together but I think if we nail it, we have a great opportunity. And that’s the target, of course,” explained Leclerc.
Despite the hard stumble tonight in Singapore qualifying, Red Bull and Max Verstappen for that matter, remain on the verge of claiming both 2023 F1 titles, the fight for second place in the F1 Constructors’ race is intense, with Ferrari chasing Red Bul for the accolade and the extra prize money that comes with it.
The Reds trail second-placed Mercedes by 45 points with eight GPs remaining in this year’s contest, also in the battle are Aston Martin who lie fourth, 11 points adrift of Ferrari.