Red Bull may have set up their RB18s with the race in mind, but Charles Leclerc is confident in Ferrari’s Monza pace as he starts the Italian Grand Prix from pole position.
The last time Formula 1 visited a low-downforce track was at Spa, where Max Verstappen put in a dominant display behind the wheel of the Red Bull.
Comfortably outqualifying the pack, Verstappen dropped to P14 as a result of engine penalties yet still won the race with a margin of almost 18 seconds over his team-mate Sergio Perez.
Leclerc, though, put himself in prime position to deliver a Ferrari win on home soil by claiming pole for the Italian Grand Prix.
Of course, Sunday is the “critical day” as Leclerc terms it, although he is confident of his chances judging by Ferrari’s pace – as long as there are no mistakes, something which has characterised the season for him and Ferrari.
Asked how it had felt to clinch pole in front of the tifosi, Leclerc told Sky Sports F1: “It feels really good, especially after Spa where we struggled massively. We worked a lot after Spa to try to identify the weaknesses of the car and it just feels great.
“It’s a very special week for us Ferrari drivers – it’s a very busy week, there’s a lot of pressure around the team and to be able to perform at such a good level today is good. But now we need to repeat that tomorrow.
“Tomorrow will be the critical day, but I’m confident because the feeling is really good. We just need to put everything together and do no mistakes.”
Verstappen, who is set to start P4 due to a penalty, explained after qualifying Red Bull had carried some extra downforce through the sessions with a view to the race, where he expects that will then work to their advantage.
Leclerc is aware Red Bull have gone down a different route, although nonetheless is confident he and Ferrari can hold their own.
“Honestly, I’m quite confident we’ve a very good race pace, the feeling was really good,” he said.
“They [Red Bull] have a very different configuration with higher downforce. But I’m quite confident we can make it work.”
🗣 @Charles_Leclerc “I’m very happy. Monza is always a special one and to secure pole position here in front of our tifosi, is an incredible feeling.”
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) September 10, 2022
In years gone by it has been crucial during Monza qualifying to pick up a good tow down the main straight, although Ferrari chose not to use that tactic this time around.
Carlos Sainz felt that had cost him the chance to fight for pole, instead qualifying P3.
But as he is to drop towards the back of the pack anyway, another driver carrying an engine penalty, he accepts it is irrelevant now.
“It was honestly a very good qualifying. I was feeling very well and I was pushing through Q1, Q2 and Q3,” he said after Q3.
“The only issue was not having a tow, which probably cost two, three tenths to fight them for pole position, but I am starting last anyway tomorrow so it’s not like it changes my life.
“It was a very good lap. I had to take a lot of risks for the lack of a tow. I was faster in every corner but slower on every straight, so in the end I didn’t improve much.”