Charles Leclerc reveals cunning plan to ‘block’ Max Verstappen at Brazil GP

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen, Red Bull and Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, talk after Brazilian GP qualifying.

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc in discussion.

While Charles Leclerc expects Max Verstappen to be too strong during the Brazilian Grand Prix, he would love the chance to pass at the start and go into “block” mode from there.

With rain approaching the Interlagos circuit during Q3, time was of the essence to get a banker lap on the board.

And it was Verstappen and Leclerc who rose to that challenge better than anyone, Verstappen claiming pole for the Brazilian Grand Prix, with Leclerc set to join him on the front row, lapping three-tenths slower than Verstappen’s 1:10.727.

Charles Leclerc thought he was P10 “for sure”

While the track was dry long enough for drivers to complete one flying lap, the conditions were far from easy as temperatures tumbled and the wind picked up.

So challenging was the weather that Leclerc considered pitting and accepting P10, though continued to the line and ultimately set a time good enough for the front row, with extreme weather setting in from there to end Q3 early.

Asked by media to assess how his qualifying went, Leclerc replied: “It was good, Q1 was really good. We only put [on] one set of new softs and we were straightaway doing a really good job with the lap. The car was feeling great.

“We had done quite a bit of changes since FP1 and it went in the right direction, so I was happy.

“In Q2 I just knew that I had to just put a lap on the board, which we did, and that was good enough and then in Q3, I’ve never experienced that in my career.

“The wind change was crazy. There was just absolutely no grip from Sector 2 onwards, which was extremely confusing because you had no idea where the balance will be in the corner you will get into and it made things very interesting.

“But luckily, I kept it more or less tidy, even though I was doubting of coming in at the end of the lap. It felt so bad that I was like, ‘Okay, this is not good enough, I’m P10 for sure’. But luckily, I wasn’t and second place is good.”

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Charles Leclerc hopes to “block” Max Verstappen

One-lap pace has generally been a strength for Ferrari in F1 2023, Leclerc having claimed pole last time out in Mexico, but it has been in race conditions where the Red Bull RB19 and Verstappen has become truly unbeatable.

Leclerc is well aware that taking Brazilian Grand Prix victory would be an upset win, but would be very satisfied if he could take the lead from Verstappen at the start and “block” the three-time World Champion from there.

“On this sprint weekend it’s very difficult to have a read,” said Leclerc on Ferrari’s anticipated race pace.

“We did a few laps, but I think fuel levels of everybody is very different in this FP1 on such a format, so very difficult to have a proper reading on who is fast, who is not.

“The feeling was okay, whether this will be enough to challenge the Red Bull I think is a bit of another story because this year, unfortunately they are very, very, very strong and much stronger than us coming the Sunday. So we’ve got a lot of work to do.

“Realistically, I will say, maybe not. But as always, if there’s the opportunity to pass at the start and then to block him for all the other laps, then I’ll take that.”

Leclerc last tasted Grand Prix victory back at the 2022 Austrian GP.

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