Leclerc surprised to claim United States F1 pole
By Mat Coch
Saturday 21st October, 2023 - 11:03am
Charles Leclerc has admitted that he was surprised to claim pole position for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver claimed top spot on Friday in Austin after Max Verstappen had his final Qualifying 3 lap deleted for track limits.
Verstappen had gone faster than Leclerc on track but fell to sixth as a result of losing his time.
That left Leclerc on pole ahead of Lando Norris with Lewis Hamilton third best following a competitive qualifying hour.
“Very happy to be on pole,” the Monegasque said.
“It’s a surprise for us, we definitely did not expect to be fighting for pole position here.
“It’s very difficult to anticipate where you’re going to be during the weekend, so for now, we are just focused on ourselves,” he added.
“The car felt good and then I was positively surprised anyway because even if everything felt really good, I did not expect to be fighting for pole.”
Leclerc proved rapid in all three segments of the knock-out session as the Prancing Horse showed strong single lap pace.
Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari will start Sunday’s race fourth, having also proved rapid throughout.
“The car was really good,” Leclerc noted.
“I think this is our biggest strength when we get to a weekend like this; it’s a Sprint weekend, every lap counts, and it’s very important to be starting with a strong base set-up of the car.
“That’s exactly what we did.
“From the first lap, we built up the confidence, I built up the confidence with the car and I felt good straight away.
“Then in qualifying, I tried to put everything together,” he added.
“The first lap was felt quite a bit better than the second lap, but I think there was a bit of track evolution.
“The second lap was good enough for pole, even though on track we got beaten by Max.”
Leclerc’s initial lap in Qualifying 3 was a 1:34.829s, improving by 0.106s on his second lap.
“The first one was much, much cleaner,” he observed.
“I put more or less everything together.
“The second lap was a bit more ‘let’s go for it and see what happens’.
“When you have this kind of mentality then you have a bit more mistakes.
“But all in all, I gained more by taking risks than what I’ve lost with a small mistake.
“It was just a bit more difficult to put everything together once I started really pushing in that last lap, but it paid off, so I’m happy.”