Leclerc asked if he can convert pole position: “Let’s be realistic…”

Charles Leclerc is pessimistic about converting his pole position into victory at the F1 Belgian Grand Prix.
(L to R): Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari with Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing in qualifying parc ferme. Formula 1 World
(L to R): Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari with Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull…

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen went fastest during qualifying on Friday in wet conditions but will incur a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race for exceeding his allocation of gearboxes for the season.

Red Bull have won every grand prix in a stunningly dominant 2023 and have Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez starting from P2.

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Ferrari driver Leclerc was asked if he can cling onto the pole position that he inherited after Verstappen’s penalty, and answered: “Let’s be realistic, I don’t think so.

“Red Bull are too quick. Even if Max has a five-place grid penalty, I expect him to catch up.

“We’ve got Checo right next to us, which will also be difficult to keep behind.

“It will be difficult. If there is an opportunity, I’ll try to keep it, but it looks difficult on paper.”

Leclerc’s qualifying was an impressive driver considering he has previously struggled in the rain.

“On one hand it feels good,” he said. “Not to underestimate how much I struggled in those conditions a few races ago.

“As I said in those times, I was working on my driving to get better.

“Today I felt at ease with the car.

“In Q3 we maybe didn’t do everything right, we went too early, but it’s risk vs rewards. We went early to avoid yellow flags.

“The track was drying, we maybe lost time.

“It wouldn’t have been enough to be in front of Max anyway.

“I’m really happy, big steps forward.”

Qualifying top three in parc ferme (L to R): Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari, second; Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing,
Qualifying top three in parc ferme (L to R): Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari…

Verstappen reacted after qualifying: “Last year I had more penalties and we could still win the race. That’s still the target on Sunday.

“It was very tight. Of course the conditions are very tricky. The track was drying quickly.

“On my final lap in Q2 I didn’t have the confidence to push more. I was very lucky to be in P10.

“But then in Q3 you have two tyre sets, you know that you can push more, risk a little more.

“To be on pole again? I know that I have to drop back on Sunday with the penalty.

“Sector 2 was still a bit damp. In some corners you had to do an alternative line.

“It was about being confident and risking everything to get more lap time.

“The car is quick, luckily we could show that again.”

And Perez added: “It was super tricky. We were expecting things to be a lot dryer, but it wasn’t the case.

“It took Q1 to dry up. Then we made sure to follow the track. Q2 was tricky.

“But it worked well for us, we’re in a good position for Sunday.

“It’s always good to be up here, to have a good place in qualifying for the race.

“But all that matters is what we do on Sunday.

“My objective is to be as high up as possible.”

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