Leclerc says Vettel was 'too quick' as Ferrari take 'surprise' lockout
Sebastian Vettel’s fine run of form continued at his favourite circuit as the German delivered a lap Charles Leclerc believes was “too quick” to take pole, Ferrari having outshone Mercedes with a “surprise” front row lockout for the Japanese Grand Prix...
Since snatching victory in Singapore, Vettel has looked like the driver of old, and he turned on the style once more in front of packed grandstands at Suzuka, delivering two laps that were out of reach of anyone else in a qualifying session that was rescheduled to Sunday morning because of the approaching Typhoon Hagibis.
“Seb did an amazing lap, today he deserves to be on pole,” said Leclerc, who had taken pole at the last four races but ended up 0.148s adrift of Vettel in Japan.
“I've been struggling a bit since the beginning of the weekend, but to be honest I was pretty happy with my lap now in qualifying apart from the last sector where I did a few mistakes, so pole was not possible.
“Seb was just too quick, so congratulations to him. I’m very happy and very surprised to be first and second after the free practices we had. The race is the most important. Hopefully we'll be able to keep these positions. Mercedes are very quick in the race, so it's not going to be easy, but we'll try to focus on our job and keep this one-two.”
Vettel, who did a day of testing for Pirelli at Barcelona before flying straight to Japan for the race weekend, was delighted with his lap in sunny, but very gusty conditions that caught out both Robert Kubica and Kevin Magnussen.
“Yeah, it was not easy obviously,” said the four-time world champion, who out-qualified Leclerc for the first time since Canada, a run of nine races. “The conditions were very different to what we had on Friday, but the main thing is obviously the sun is out, people are happy.
“I think we were quite surprised to be honest. We didn't expect that, to have the front row, so I’m very happy. It was unbelievable, the car being so light on fuel and new tyres, and we had a headwind up the Esses, which is what you want because then the car feels even better. I don't think I used the brakes other than Turn 2!
“It was unbelievable. I really enjoyed it, but it's only part of the job done. Let's look forward to this afternoon.”
Ferrari’s one-two on the grid at Suzuka, their first since 2006, means they equal Mercedes’ record of 64 front row lockouts. Can they turn that into their second one-two of the season and keep their constructors’ championship hopes alive?