Charles Leclerc has commented on missing the front row by a few hundredths in the qualifying session for the 2023 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix at the 5.807-kilometre Suzuka International Racing Course on Saturday, with the Monegasque driver set to start just behind the two McLarens in fourth place tomorrow. Charles Leclerc is separated by less than a tenth from Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, with the latter delivering an outstanding lap in Q3, showcasing the competitive nature of the MCL60 on the historic Japanese circuit.
Charles Leclerc nearly clinches the front row in the Japanese GP qualifying: the impressions of the Monegasque
“Honestly, I didn’t think I could do a better lap in Q3 because it was really good,” said number 16 at the end of the qualifying session. “I gave it everything. There wasn’t a corner where I think I lost something. I didn’t have a slipstream. Maybe that cost us a bit on the straight, but I don’t think the others had it either.” – he pointed out.
“It’s an incredible feeling to drive at Suzuka, but it’s a bit disappointing when you finish such a beautiful lap and then you’re fourth, seven-tenths behind. So yes, it was good, but it could be more fun if we could fight for the top positions.”
However, the fourth position feels somewhat like a missed opportunity, considering the minuscule gap from the two McLarens. Excluding Max Verstappen, who returned to form after the Singapore debacle, the front row could have been an achievable result for this SF23, which still demonstrated competitive performance.
Nevertheless, the Maranello car also revealed some limitations, as evident in the snake section: “We lacked performance, especially in the first sector,” Charles Leclerc adds. “We struggled a lot compared to the McLarens and Max, losing three to four tenths for some reason. At that point, we had to try to recover in the other two sectors.”
Speaking of Max Verstappen’s extraordinary pole position, Charles says: “The gap with Red Bull is insane; they have worked hard on it. Since FP1, we understood there was a lot of work to do, especially in the first sector for some reason because that’s where we practically lose most of our time on the lap.”
All in all, though, Charles Leclerc can be satisfied with his qualifying performance. After struggling against his teammate in Singapore, the Monegasque has managed to get back ahead of Sainz by a significant three-tenths and will be the leading Ferrari driver poised to challenge the McLarens.