After showcasing some speed during the three practice sessions, Chares Leclerc and his No. 16 Scuderia Ferrari F1-75 brigade made some noise by earning the pole for Sunday’s inaugural Miami Grand Prix at the Miami International Autodrome.
The 24-year-old Monegasque tallied a quick time of 1:28.796 around the 19-turn, 3.363 mile temporary street course, earning his third pole position of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship season.
After leading the way in the first two qualifying rounds, the championship points leader felt some heat from Max Verstappen, the reigning world champion, heading into the ultimate session. Nevertheless, Leclerc prevailed when it counted at the slick, relatively unknown track in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Following his 12th career pole position, Leclerc considered his lap around the track, particularly the points that he could’ve improved upon in his car.
“Tricky, very slippery,” Leclerc observed. “It’s a sliding all around, a bit everywhere, and it is very, very difficult to put everything together because as soon as you get out of the line a little bit, you lose a lot of grip and a lot of lap time.
“So the lap wasn’t perfect, but yeah, good enough to be on P1. The car was amazing today, and hopefully we can keep that pace for tomorrow.”
Specifically, Leclerc noted how he could’ve improved upon his approach in the first eight turns. However, he made up for lost ground, in his mind, when it mattered.
“Basically, from turn 1 to turn 8, the lap was quite messy and I wasn’t really improving,” he recalled. “I caught back a little bit in turns, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 – but turns 1, 2, 3 wasn’t great. But that is the way it is. After, I think, the second part of the lap from Turn 11 to Turn 16, it was quite good.
“And also, the last corner was as good even though it was very, very tricky with the change of tarmac today. The grip was much lower there, compared to anywhere else on track. But yeah, at the end, it was quite a good lap anyway.”
Sometimes, it’s about being good enough in a series where perfection is sought by every driver and team in the F1 paddock. After a strong start with two wins, a runner-up and sixth, Leclerc ruminated over his team’s strong F1-75 challenger while acknowledging the changes awaiting the latter part of the season.
“It is a very strong package that we have,” he shared. “It works in more or less every conditions since the beginning of the season. So that is a good sign for the future.
“But yeah, as I’ve said many times, I think the upgrades this year will be very, very important. We’ve had a few here, which went in the right direction. And hopefully we’ll have some more during the season to stay on top.”
All things considered, an upgraded car for the Scuderia Ferrari duo of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, who’ll start from second position, seems to be a scary situation for the rest of the field. Naturally, Leclerc does not dismiss Red Bull Racing as a worthy adversary throughout this season, particularly the No. 1 team of Verstappen.
“Well, of course if they are close to us, then it’s going to be very difficult,” Leclerc said. “But we’ve got this advantage in the corners which hopefully there will be too far to then have an opportunity of overtaking us in the straight.
“But yeah, only time will tell and we’ll only see that tomorrow. But again, the pace of the car is quite strong so yeah, we’ll focus on ourselves and see where we are tomorrow.”
Focusing on their efforts seems to be working out nicely for Leclerc and company. In fact, they are realize their potential after two trying campaigns.
By and large, Leclerc recognizes his team’s progress while focusing on honing in on a third win, a pivotal opportunity before back-to-back races in Barcelona, Spain and La Condamine and Monte Carlo, Monaco.
With perfect stops and flawless driving in what’s expected to be a slick, treacherous race, Leclerc and Sainz may make it a memorable day for the Tifosi in the Sunshine State.
“It’s definitely better,” he offered. “Yeah, I mean, both cars are very competitive. Carlos and I are very competitive. So, it’s great for the team. And yeah, we’ll push to try and finish in the same positions tomorrow.”