Don’t expect Charles Leclerc to challenge Max Verstappen for the lead in Brazil, the Ferrari driver conceding it would be “irrelevant” as he’d retake it in “two or three laps”.
Leclerc will line up second on the grid at the Interlagos circuit having lost pole position to Verstappen by three-tenths of a second.
But unlike at most Grand Prix weekends, this time the drivers have an inkling of how the race could pan out having already done a 24-lap Sprint on Saturday.
Can Charles Leclerc fight Max Verstappen into Turn 1?
That was won by Verstappen while Leclerc was fifth having played the DRS game with his rivals as the power of the overtaking aid saw many a pass made only for the driver who was overtaken to immediately power back through with DRS.
As the drivers learned on Saturday, it’s about the timing of the pass and it’s also about being able to break out of DRS range as quickly as possible.
The latter, coupled with the incredible pass of the RB19 even without DRS, has Leclerc conceding overtaking Verstappen at the start would be a futile effort.
“I watched Max and my last lap. My lap was pretty good but I was nine-tenths or a second off,” he said.
“If this is the pace of the cars, then I’m pretty sure that even if I pass him that’s a bit irrelevant because I think in two or three laps, he should be passing me.”
Ferrari’s cooling problems in the Sprint are also a worry heading into Sunday’s 71-lap Grand Prix with Leclerc having to lift and coast in the shortened race which hampered their efforts to push for a better finish.
“But fortunately,” said Leclerc, “I will start from second place. Hopefully, I will have far fewer cars to overtake after the opening lap. That will help me get into a better window than today.”
He added: “I expect it will be a better day whatever that is.”
Charles Leclerc sets out ‘main objective’
Starting second on the grid with his teammate Carlos Sainz seventh, Ferrari could find themselves racing Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton starting fifth and George Russell, penalised for breaking the new pit exit rules, in ninth place.
Never mind racing Red Bull, finishing ahead of Mercedes is Ferrari’s main goal with the two powerhouse teams fighting over second in the Constructors’ Championship.
That currently belongs to Mercedes who extended their advantage to 24 points with both Mercedes drivers one place ahead of a Ferrari in the Sprint.
“Our main objective is to beat Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship,” said Leclerc.
“We had a really positive weekend in that regard. But we still have a lot of work to do to overtake Red Bull, but now also McLaren who have made a huge step forward.”