Leclerc warns Ferrari qualifying advantage could fade in race
The seven-tenths between Belgian Grand Prix pole-sitter Charles Leclerc and third-place qualifier Lewis Hamilton seemed more like a chasm than a gap. But the Ferrari driver warned that it may not be representative of Ferrari’s race pace come Sunday.
Leclerc called his lap of 1m 42.519s in qualifying “amazing”, not only dealing Mercedes a crushing blow but beating team mate Sebastian Vettel by 0.748s too, the largest pole-to-second-place margin of the season so far. Yet Leclerc was rather more measured when it came to his expectations for Sunday’s race.
“I don’t know. I think we have been quick since FP1 but once we did the race simulations in FP2 we weren’t as quick, so I think it’s not going to be easy tomorrow,” he explained. “We’ll try to give everything. The gap is quite big today but it doesn’t mean it will be like that tomorrow so we will be working hard to improve the race run on yesterday and we’ll see.”
Our Friday analysis showed that Ferrari could stand to lose half a second a lap relative to Mercedes during the race, and with conditions set to change – cooling from Saturday’s sweltering heat – the advantage could shift considerably.
“I’m hoping that we can at least give [Ferrari] a bit of a challenge tomorrow,” said Hamilton, appearing to back up Leclerc’s race pace fears. “I think a bit of their straight [line] speed, which is where generally all the speed is, it’s usually not there so much in the race, so hopefully we’ll be there or thereabouts with them tomorrow.”
At first it feels a bit weird coming to Formula 1 when you are doing your first laps in the lead, but the more laps I do in the lead, the more comfortable I am
Leclerc has narrowly missed out on victory twice in his debut season with the Scuderia, reliability denying him a win in Bahrain while Max Verstappen’s late overtake undid him in Austria. But he’s lived and learned from those experiences, and now wants more experience at the front of the pack.
“Obviously Bahrain was nothing to do with me, so nothing to take from there,” he said. “Austria – lesson learned – but I think I already showed it in Silverstone as I spoke about the [aggression] level I had with my opponents.
“At first it feels a bit weird coming to Formula 1 when you are doing your first laps in the lead, but the more laps I do in the lead, the more comfortable I am.”
Leclerc will now switch his attention to Sunday's race, where he'll have the simple goal of giving Ferrari their first win of the season.