Leclerc hints at Ferrari plan for lights out in 2023 Mexico City GP

Charles Leclerc took his second successive F1 pole position at the 2023 Mexico City GP

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Charles Leclerc hinted Ferrari have a plan up their sleeve for the 2023 Mexico City Grand Prix and insisted he’s confident of holding the lead on the first lap, after taking a shock pole position ahead of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen.

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez has the longest run to the first corner on the Formula 1 calendar, and Leclerc lost the lead from pole a week ago at the 2023 United States GP.

Just a tenth of a second separated the top three with Verstappen surprisingly unable to produce a significant improvement on his final run despite topping all three free practice sessions and Q1.

“it’s a very difficult race, everything can kind of happen,” Leclerc told the media, “especially with the cooling for whichever car is behind, we’ll do a bit more management so it can play in our favour.

“But for that we need to do a good start, starting first here is always tricky to keep that position into the first corner but we’ve had pretty good starts this year.

“So yeah, I’m confident we can keep that first place into Turn 1 and then we’ll try and do our best racing.”

A sometimes underrated contender for Mr Saturday in the F1 paddock, Leclerc‘s achieved 27 pole positions in his career but just five grand prix victories.

He’s not won from the front since the 2022 Australian GP, but will hope to change that in Mexico City and take the top step of the podium for the first time in almost 500 days.

The picture behind Leclerc isn’t even set ahead of lights out, with Verstappen facing a potential grid penalty alongside Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who qualified sixth and eighth.

Five drivers were under investigation after a helter-skelter Q1, but Ferrari stayed well away from the chaos.

Verstappen still favourite for Mexico City GP victory

Max Verstappen flashes by in FP1 of the 2023 Mexico City GP | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Leclerc believes Verstappen will still be Ferrari‘s biggest challenger in Mexico City though, with the Dutchman qualifying just 0.097 seconds off pole position.

Verstappen came through to win in Austin after starting sixth on the grid, and his four wins at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez make it his second-most successful track in F1.

Sergio Perez qualified fifth, behind Daniel Ricciardo, but should Verstappen receive a penalty he’ll have everything on the line going into turn one from the second row too.

“This year clearly, Max has been extremely strong on the race pace,” Leclerc added. “So the moment it’s Max, we still have a lot of work to do as a team to match them with our race pace.”

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, 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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