The Ferrari driver qualified fifth at the Circuit of the Americas, moving up one place on the grid thanks to Valtteri Bottas’ five-place grid penalty for an engine change.

With Ferrari embroiled in a titanic fight with McLaren for third in the constructors’ championship, Leclerc was delighted to have bounced back from a difficult final practice to beat both Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris.

“Very happy with today and with the whole weekend to be honest, Leclerc said. “But especially with today because personally it hasn’t been easy today. In FP3, the first run went very, very well, and then in the second run of FP3 we tried something and I lost completely the confidence in the car and I was struggling a lot with the rear end of the car.

“So in Q1, we decided to do a bit of a different plan, do it going for a bit more laps than usual, and that helped me gain the confidence back in the car. And then we went into Q2, did that great lap with the medium in the first run, which helped us to go into Q3 with those medium tyres – and Q3 went very well so very happy that both of our cars have out-qualified the McLarens, which was the goal today.”

Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz will start one place behind Leclerc on the grid, albeit on the soft tyres - the rest of the top 10 on the grid will start on mediums, excluding Yuki Tsunoda.

Sainz doesn’t believe it was a gamble to start on the less durable, softer rubber but conceded that he will be on a “compromised” strategy in the race.

“No, no, not a gamble - just a compromised situation that we saw that we wanted to do the soft first and then beat the lap time on the medium, and then the track got a bit slower at the end of Q2,” Sainz added. “No one improved in the second run.

“And we had reserved the medium for the second run and normally it’s quicker but this time it was slower because the wind picked up, so we need to analyse what we could have done differently there because it obviously puts us on the back foot going into tomorrow. For the rest I’ve been quick all day, quick all weekend and feeling good for tomorrow.”

Sainz says starting on the soft tyres will only benefit him on the opening lap.

“For the first 10 metres, yes; after one corner, you want mediums,” Sainz explained. “There’s one positive but a lot of negatives in that sense so a bit on the back foot going into tomorrow but we’ll try our best and see what we can do differently.”