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Belgian GP: Qualifying team notes - Ferrari

NEWS STORY
28/07/2023

Charles Leclerc will start Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix from pole position, the 20th time he will do so and the 244th for the team.

The only drivers to have done better at Ferrari are Michael Schumacher on 58 and Niki Lauda on 23. Carlos Sainz will start from fourth place on the second row, having set a lap time just 164 thousandths slower than his team-mate. They had actually set the second and fifth fastest times, but move up one because Max Verstappen takes a penalty for a change of gearbox.

It rained for most of the day, until the skies over the Ardennes cleared just before the start of qualifying, which got underway on a damp track, but with sun making an appearance. As is usual on a damp track, the drivers went out with enough fuel on board to do several laps as the track gradually dried out. Charles and Carlos made it through the first phase on intermediate tyres, using the same type for the start of Q2. But they were soon able to switch to Soft slicks given that the racing line had dried out. The pair did well to avoid any of the pitfalls and make it through to the final part. They both had two runs in Q3, but as the track was drying out rapidly, it all came down to that final lap. Charles posted a great 1'46"988, while Carlos stopped the clocks in 1'47"152. The only driver capable of beating Leclerc's time was Max Verstappen, but the five place grid penalty for that gearbox change means he will start sixth on Sunday. Carlos also benefits, moving up to fourth.

Spa-Francorchamps hosts the third Sprint format event of the season, so that tomorrow is a stand-alone day, given over to the 100 kilometre race that starts at 16.30. The Sprint Shootout to decide the grid for the afternoon's 15 lap race, starts at noon. The weather in the area is still expected to be very changeable tomorrow so it will be a case of being ready to pounce on any opportunities.

Charles Leclerc: On the one hand, it feels good because I struggled quite a bit in these conditions up until a few races ago and the hard work I put into my driving has paid off. I really felt at ease in the car.

In Q3, we may have gone out a bit early, but at the end, it's always down to risk versus reward, and we wanted to avoid any yellow flags. Our result is good, and we wouldn't have been able to finish in front of Max (Verstappen) today. I expect him to catch up in the race on Sunday and with Checo in the mix, it will be a good challenge.

Carlos Sainz: Tricky qualifying today with the changing conditions. Every time we were going out we found a completely different track. We managed to go nicely through Q1 and Q2 but in Q3 I didn't put together my best lap, having a moment in T8-9 which cost me some positions.

We'll start P4 on Sunday, which isn't bad, and anything can happen this weekend with the weather, so we'll see what we can come up with for the race.

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal: Qualifying today was a bit chaotic, as we had to put everything together in just one lap in Q3, but overall it was a good session for us, if you take Max out of the equation, as he was flying, but we will start from P1 and P4 on Sunday which is a good starting point.

We have not really been able to look at race set-up, because free practice was really wet and then we went into quali on Inters before finally being able to use slicks. But that was the case for all the teams, and it's much better to start at the front than from the back. We saw huge differences in top speeds today, which means teams have gone for different options for Saturday and Sunday and we must wait and see what the weather will be for the rest of the weekend. I don't want to make any forecasts for Sunday. We just have to do our best and try and get the most out of the car and the drivers.

So far, I think the team has done a very good job, so on Sunday, we will focus on our own race rather than on what any others behind Charles might do.

Check out our Friday gallery from Spa here.

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