Scuderia Ferrari Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc concluded the Singapore Grand Prix qualifying session with a third-place finish, less than eight hundredths of a second behind his teammate and pole-sitter, Carlos Sainz. Regardless of the final result, the Monegasque driver didn’t hide the fact that he’s been facing some extra difficulties lately in finding the necessary confidence in the car, forcing him to take a few more risks to compensate for certain characteristics that make the car unpredictable.
Under the lights of Singapore, the dominant color is red, just like that of the two Ferraris. After Monza, another pole position was secured for the Prancing Horse, again by Carlos Sainz, this time beating his teammate by less than eight hundredths of a second.
Just as it had been in Italy, it was not the easiest weekend for Charles Leclerc, dealing with a more nervous car that was difficult to control from his perspective. The hope was that the lower temperatures expected at night could help manage a snappy rear end, ensuring more grip and less tire overheating.
After an initial attempt in Q3, which left him about two and a half tenths off the pace, Leclerc managed to find something extra for the second run, getting significantly closer to his teammate but not enough to snatch pole. In fact, due to a significant oversteer coming out of the final chicane, he lost several tenths, ultimately costing him the second position and relegating him to the second row behind George Russell.
“It’s extremely challenging as always, but probably even more so here, with tire temperatures and overheating during the lap. It’s always a balance between the first and last sectors. But yes, it was a hard-fought session. Mercedes was also very strong today. So it was an interesting qualifying. Unfortunately, I missed something to gain a few positions,” commented Leclerc immediately after the session.
If the starting positions are maintained, Ferrari could play with strategy: “But once again, Carlos did a great job, third place for the team tomorrow, and let’s see what we can do.”
“The physical challenge tomorrow will certainly be demanding. The weather is extremely hot and humid. But so far, we’ve seen great performance. Honestly, we didn’t expect to be so competitive on a track like this. So it’s a good sign for the future. But yes, let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Due to the characteristics of the 2023 car, Leclerc has never hidden the fact that he hasn’t been able to fully connect with the car this year, something that is more noticeable on a technical track like Singapore. This is an aspect that has been seen throughout the season, but after the summer break, certain issues seem to have amplified, as he explained during interviews: “I’ve been struggling a bit more since returning after the summer break. The car is understeering, but at the same time, it’s also snappy, so it’s difficult to predict what it will do on the track. I’ve paid for this in terms of confidence, but in the end, it was a good lap, even though I made a mistake in turn 17 that cost me some time.”
“We have a car that has been a bit understeering all year, so I have to be very aggressive on the pedal on exit, and this leads me to make a few more mistakes,” Leclerc added, explaining why taking a few more risks is necessary on the exit.
“We’re trying to improve, but we need to have a global view. If we look at where we are now compared to Zandvoort, two high-downforce tracks, it’s a step forward, it’s positive. I think we found something at Monza, but not enough to justify this weekend. Our car performs well on this track, but we shouldn’t get carried away too much. Have we made progress? Yes. Will it be the same for the rest of the season? It’s too early to say.”
Finally, depending on the various race situations, Leclerc expressed his openness to possible team orders to ensure the best possible result for the team: “I believe the philosophy will be the same, if we’re under pressure from Mercedes, then I’m pretty sure the positions will be fixed. If, on the other hand, all the other cars are far behind, and I hope it’s the case, then we’ll see what the team chooses. But in the end, we will follow what we are told.”