Charles Leclerc rates Ferrari chances of victory in Brazilian GP

Leclerc will start the Brazilian GP from second behind Verstappen.

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Charles Leclerc has played down his chances of defeating Max Verstappen in the Brazilian Grand Prix, despite qualifying second in a rain-soaked session in Sao Paolo.

Leclerc, who is still searching for his first win of 2023, has qualified on pole position twice in both the United States and Mexico City GP, only to finish behind Verstappen in the races.

Verstappen would turn the tables on the Monegasque in Qualifying at Interlagos, timing his first run to perfection and taking pole position for Sunday’s race with Leclerc second fastest ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.

“On these sprint weekends, it’s very difficult to have a read,” Leclerc told media. “But again, I think the fuel levels of everybody are very different. 

“So very difficult to have a proper read [as to] who is fast, who is not, the feel was okay, whether this will be enough to challenge the Red Bull, I think it’s a bit of another story.

“Because this year, unfortunately, they are very strong and much stronger than us coming the Sunday, so we’ve got a lot of work to do. Realistically, I will say maybe not.

“But as always, if there’s the opportunity to pass at the start and block him for [the rest of the race], then I’ll take that.”

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Alfa Romeo F1 Team C43 leaves the pits at the start of the session. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Friday 3rd November 2023. Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Surprised by final lap pace

The final part of Qualifying saw conditions dramatically change at Interlagos, with cloudy conditions replaced by heavy wind and thunder.

With rain expected, drivers only had one or two laps to secure their grid position for Sunday’s race, meaning going out at the right time would be imperative for a good grid position.

Ferrari sent Leclerc and his teammate Carlos Sainz out early, securing a clear track just before the rain arrived and securing his third consecutive front-row start. 

That came as a surprise to Leclerc, who initially thought he had qualified 10th on his slow lap to the pits just before qualifying ended four minutes early because of the conditions.

“We [had] done [some] changes since FP1, and it went in the right direction. In Q2, I just knew that I had to just put a lap on the board, which we did and that was good enough,” added Leclerc. 

“Then in Q3, as Max said, I’ve never experienced that in my career. The wind change was crazy; there was just absolutely no grip from sector two onwards, which was extremely confusing.

“Because you had no idea where the balance will be in the corner you get into, and it made things very interesting. But luckily, I kept it more or less tidy. 

“Even though I was doubting coming in at the end of the lap, it felt so bad that I was like, ‘Okay, this is not good enough, I am P10 for sure’. But luckily, I wasn’t, and second place is good.”

Ed Spencer
FIA accredited journalist
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