Leclerc explains qualifying pace deficit to Verstappen

Charles Leclerc says he wouldn’t have beaten Max Verstappen to Mexican Grand Prix pole position – until the Dutchman was penalised for a yellow flag infringement – even without the setup change in Q3 that he feels hampered his pace.

Leclerc explains qualifying pace deficit to Verstappen

Leclerc will start from his seventh pole position of the season, but rued a setup change ahead of his second run in Q3 that cost him time in the final sector. Regardless of the move, Leclerc didn’t think he could’ve beaten Verstappen – before the Red Bull driver was stripped of pole position anyway.

“We went a bit too far with the setup and it created quite a bit of oversteer in the last sector but overall it wouldn’t have changed anything,” said Leclerc. “I wouldn’t have got pole position [until the three-place grid penalty was applied]. Max was too quick.

“Today it felt extremely difficult. The first run in Q3 I was extremely happy with and we were one tenth behind and I don’t think much closer than that was possible.

“On the second run I tried to put a bit more front in the car, which I wanted, but I went [out] the other side, which created quite a lot of oversteer in the last sector and we lost too much time. I lost the time I made up in the first sector.”

“After FP3 we thought we had a shot for pole, and then in qualifying [Verstappen] was too quick.”

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His teammate Sebastian Vettel, who took pole at the last race at Suzuka, admitted he had a poor first lap in Q3 and Bottas’s crash ruined his second attempt. He was third fastest but will start second.

“I had a mistake on my first run so I was quite confident on the second run I can make up for it,” said Vettel. “Unfortunately there was double yellow, so I had to slow down and the lap was lost. I didn’t peak when it was time to peak in the sessions, especially Q3.

“Other than that the car felt good. There was more in hand. Obviously Max was a fair bit faster than us on the key lap.”

In terms of race potential, Vettel said: “The car is good, I would have liked to be a bit further up. I think it was possible but let’s see tomorrow. It is a long race, I think we have the speed. We’ll see how everything gets going. We start on the medium tyres, and we’ll take it from there.”

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