How bizarre Leclerc decision led to United States GP pole

Charles Leclerc managed his third pole of the season at the 2023 Untied States GP

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Charles Leclerc admitted the decision to stop thinking while driving his Ferrari and focus on himself helped him take pole position at the 2023 United States Grand Prix, his third of the season.

Leclerc initially qualified second, an agonising five-thousandths of a second behind Max Verstappen, before the Dutchman saw his time was deleted for a track limits violation at turn 19.

Red Bull had warned they’d struggle more at the Circuit of the Americas but it was dismissed as lip service up until Q3 – McLaren voiced similar concerns before Lando Norris qualified second.

“I don’t think anymore now, I stopped thinking a long time ago,” Leclerc told the press. “This year I cannot quite understand where we are or what, it’s very difficult to anticipate where you’re going to be during the weekend so for now I just focused on ourselves

“The car felt good, and then I was positively surprised anyway because even if everything felt really good, I do not expect to be fighting for pole.”

Lewis Hamilton will line up behind Leclerc in third, but both Brits were over a tenth behind the Ferrari driver, who’d also topped Q2 by 0.004 seconds.

However, teammate Carlos Sainz couldn’t quite haul himself into the battle for pole, qualifying fourth in a densely packed Q3 pack in Austin.

Leclerc: Ferrari’s future is bright

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz embrace each other at the 2023 Singapore GP | Scuderia Ferrari

Ferrari had looked strong throughout Friday at the Circuit of the Americas, but Leclerc saved his best for last on a rapidly improving track to take P1.

It’s part of a solid upturn in fourth after they found themselves distinctly fourth-best at the start of 2023, picking up just 12 points at the Bahrain GP.

Leclerc has found himself outshone by Sainz for much of 2023, who’s taken the only non-Red Bull victory of the season, but repeating that feat would see him become the lead Ferrari in the drivers’ championship.

“Very different characteristics, but it’s a good sign,” Leclerc added. “I think we’ve learned a massive amount since the start of the second part of the season.

“We haven’t brought massive upgrades since then but we learned how to maximise our car and that helped us to be at our 100% a bit more regularly and today it’s once again proved that, it’s a good time for the future.”

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, and previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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