‘Probably the strangest session of my career’ – Leclerc happy with P2 in ‘difficult’ conditions of Sao Paulo qualifying
Charles Leclerc was pleased to set a lap good enough to put him P2 on the grid for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, despite admitting that the weather-affected session was one of the “strangest” of his career.
The Ferrari driver had put his provisional time on the board in the opening moments of Q3 in Friday’s qualifying, with the lap putting him in second place, just under three-tenths back from Max Verstappen. However, the conditions began to dramatically change after the first runs and rain started to fall, prompting the red flags to be shown.
It was then confirmed that the session would not be resumed, meaning that Leclerc had secured his place on the front row for Sunday’s race.
Reflecting on the stormy end to qualifying afterwards, Leclerc explained his shock at how quickly the weather took hold.
“That was one of or probably the strangest session of my career,” the Monegasque said. “Especially the last run, I think there was the rain coming, the wind changed completely, and there was no rain around but the grip changed completely, and it was extremely difficult.
"We just had to guess where the grip was, and I did a good lap so I’m happy even though it’s very, very difficult in those conditions. Happy anyway with second place. It’s a good place to fight for Sunday.”
When asked how the car had felt during Friday’s running, Leclerc sounded a positive note: “Q3 was really good, Q2 was okay, I knew I just had to put a lap in in order to go to Q3. I did, which was good enough to go to Q3, and then in Q3, as I said, it was very, very tricky.”
Team mate Carlos Sainz was less fortunate, with the Spaniard being among those to leave the pits slightly later. He set the eighth fastest time and was left disappointed at not having had the opportunity to improve.
“We got unlucky there with the weather,” Sainz conceded. “We were one of the last cars to leave the pits, with the cold tyres and the temperature dropping and the rain coming and the gust of wind. We were just unlucky today because the pace in Q2 wasn’t too bad and, yeah, a bit disappointed obviously because we were very late to go out. We missed the chance to do a good lap.”
Sainz was confident, however, that a better result would have been possible had he been one of the first cars out on track, with the two-time race winner adding: “I was P8 in the queue and I qualified P8. P9 and P10 in the queue qualified behind me, so it was clear that the later you were going, the slower the track was... Not ideal.”
Prior to Sunday’s Grand Prix, the drivers will have another chance to work on their one-lap pace when the Sprint Shootout takes place on Saturday ahead of the final Sprint of the 2023 season.