“It’s a good opportunity” — Leclerc hopes to challenge Verstappen for the win in F1 Miami GP

Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari HP
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It’s been close but no cigar so far for Charles Leclerc in Miami, though he’s hoping to challenge Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for the win on Sunday.

Verstappen has come out on top both on Friday and Saturday, though he expressed some frustration, struggling—like most other drivers—with unpredictable tyre performance around the Miami International Autodrome.

Leclerc has consistently shadowed Verstappen throughout the weekend, securing P2 on Friday and maintaining his position in the Sprint race. After a strong start he appeared set to challenge Verstappen, staying within striking distance until his momentum was interrupted by the safety car, leaving Leclerc second at the flag.

He emerged as Verstappen’s closest rival again in qualifying, but missed out on pole by 0.141s. Undeterred, Leclerc is determined to apply pressure on Verstappen in Sunday’s race. 

“Today has been a very, very tricky qualifying for some reason. The tyre blanket was very short and if you will be very fast in the first sector, second and third sector will be much more difficult and sliding a lot more, he said after the session.

“That’s what happened in Q3 when we went for the last one or two tenths. That’s where we started to slide around a lot more. But it’s like this and now we’ll look forward to tomorrow to see what is possible.

“I think it’s going to be an interesting race because we’ve got also Checo starting fourth. [He] was fast this morning. So we’ve got to see. The start will be very important. The first lap will be very important to try and stay within DRS range of Max. But the best scenario will be to be in front of Max and that will be all down to the start.”

Speaking in the post-qualifying press conference, Leclerc added: “I’m happy [with the car]. I mean I didn’t change much of it since this morning, a little bit of fine tuning but all in all we were quite in a good place.

“However (…) it’s extremely tricky to put a lap together, tyres especially in the second sector are very inconsistent and there are quite a few corners where you don’t really know what you’re going to get and that makes it very, very difficult. So it was very tricky qualifying but second is not a bad place to start the race.

“There were still some corners where I was not extremely happy but it was very, very difficult to put the tyres in the right window for the whole lap and I think that was the same for everybody.”

Leclerc explained that he’s optimistic about his chances in the race after seeing he could keep pace with Verstappen throughout the Sprint. 

“[In] the Sprint Race we were a little bit closer to what we normally see—however, I also said that Max wasn’t really happy with his car this morning in the Sprint Race, so we need to see how much of a step forward he does to more being happier with the car. 

“But as I said, we did some fine tuning on our side, we’re also confident we did a step forward so we’ll see, but if we have a similar pace like we’ve seen this morning then I think with strategy you can always put a bit more pressure and I hope that is the case. We’ve got the two cars in the front so it’s a good opportunity.”