Charles Leclerc claimed pole position for the British Grand Prix by edging out Max Verstappen in a thrilling qualifying session at Silverstone. Both drivers had set identical Q3 times of 1m40.445s, but it was Verstappen who lapped first to take provisional pole. However, with just seconds remaining, Leclerc delivered a stunning lap to claim his first pole position in almost a year-and-a-half. Leclerc‘s lap time of 1m40.203s was just 0.188s quicker than Verstappen.
The young Monegasque driver produced a personal best in the opening and closing sectors of the lap, while also recording the quickest time in the middle section. Verstappen‘s Red Bull teammate, Sergio Perez, was forced to settle for third place, while Leclerc‘s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. finished fourth.
Leclerc was clearly overjoyed with his achievement, stating that he and the team were only hoping to outpace the other competing teams, and not the championship contending Red Bull and Mercedes squads. “We came into the weekend thinking that it will be a great weekend if we are in front of Aston and Mercedes in qualifying and, at the end, we are on pole, so it’s a really good surprise,” Leclerc said.
However, the young driver was cautious about his chances of securing victory on Sunday as he acknowledged that the race pace of the Red Bull was likely to be superior to that of his SF-23 car. “We must not forget that our race car is maybe still behind the Red Bulls, so it’s going to be difficult to keep the lead but that’s the target and really, really happy with the lap,” Leclerc stated.
Leclerc also praised the resilience of his Ferrari SF-23 car, which has shown marked improvement from last season. “It’s a very challenging weekend overall for us drivers because very little time to practice [with the changes to the sprint race event timetable]. We only had one practice and then you need to be straight on it, but the feeling was good since the start so really, really happy.”
Leclerc‘s pole position ensured that Ferrari ended Red Bull‘s run of success in qualifying this season, with Verstappen having won four of the five pole positions previously awarded. However, Leclerc remained grounded, acknowledging that the medium tyre compound would present a challenge. “It’s going to be challenging because we haven’t run the medium [tyre compound] yet. So tomorrow in qualifying [for the sprint race] will be the first time and we need to be on it because we only have one set,” he noted. “But again, the pace seems strong. So, hopefully we can learn in Q1 and Q2 and then push in Q3 and we know the car is good.”