Leclerc pleased with progress in mixed conditions to get pole at Spa: “Really at ease with the car”

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Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari

It was P2 at the finish of qualifying today for Charles Leclerc in Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix, but the Monegasque inherits Pole Position on Sunday due to Max Verstappen’s 5-place grid penalty for taking his fifth gearbox of 2023.

With Leclerc only scoring 8 points combined from the previous two races in Hungary and Great Britain, this result will come as a welcome boost for Leclerc and indeed the whole Ferrari team.

It was a mixed wet-dry session, but Leclerc navigated these tricky conditions well in contrast to previous wet weather qualifying in Spain and Canada. The 25-year-old was on it all the way through qualifying as he finished P1, P3 and P2 in the three segments of qualifying.

“On the one hand it feels good, because it’s important not to underestimate how much I struggled in those conditions a few races ago,” confessed Leclerc.

Leclerc went on the further say how he has worked a lot on his driving to improve in these conditions after the disastrous showing in Spain especially.

“As I kept saying during those times, I was working a lot on my driving in order to get better and today I was really at ease with the car.

“I’m really happy. I’ll keep working in those conditions, but big steps forward already, so it’s good to see.”

Leclerc also feels he left time on the table in Q3 because they went out first for the final runs, but he conceded it wouldn’t have been enough to overhaul Verstappen’s massive 8 tenths margin.

“I think in Q3 we maybe didn’t do everything right, as we went a bit too early, but at the end it’s risk versus reward. We wanted to go early to avoid any yellow flags, but the track was drying up. We maybe lost a little bit of time, but it wouldn’t have been enough to be in front of Max anyway.”

Looking forward to Sunday’s race and the thoughts of keeping the Red Bulls at bay are playing on the Monegasque’s mind. Last year at this very track, Vertsappen came from P14 on the grid due to penalties for component changes to win in dominant fashion.

Fast-forward to this year and the Dutchman is starting in P6 and has his teammate Sergio Perez starting in P2. Keeping these steaming Bulls at bay will be a hard task for Leclerc. He has all but accepted his chances of winning under normal circumstances are zero considering the pace of Verstappen.

“I don’t think so, Red Bull are too quick, even if Max has a penalty, I expect him to catch up. We’ve got Checo right next to us, which will be also very difficult to keep behind.

“Again, if there’s an opportunity I’ll try and keep the lead, as always, but it looks difficult on paper,” concluded Leclerc.