Charles Leclerc’s perfect weekend at the Spanish Grand Prix was almost ruined when his Ferrari stopped late in qualifying.
Instead of panicking, Leclerc showed great championship-caliber.
He drove his car back to the garage for a new set of tires, then let out one last breath to push the reigning Formula One champion Max Verstappen to qualify for the pole.
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Leclerc shouted, “It was good!” After his run at the last minute of the third round of the qualifying round.
“I made a mistake on my first run, but in the end I stuck it out,” Leclerc said. “I am very happy with this lap and I worked it out with my only chance.”
The Leclerc circuit ran around Barcelona-Catalonia for 1 minute, 18.75 seconds. He dropped a Red Bull Verstapen to second place with a time of 0.323 seconds as Leclerc won the fourth pole of his season and the 13th victory of his career.
Does he have anything more for Sunday?
History suggests Leclerc should be in control of the race: Spain’s pole-sitters have won 23 out of 31 times because the track has very few passing zones.
Verstapen, however, was uncomfortable with a mechanical problem with his Red Bull that prevented him from running Versteppen’s own late to take the pole away from Lecler. And, Verstappen was third behind Ferrari of Leclerc and Carlos Senz Jr. at the start in Miami two weeks ago, and the Dutchman lost both of them for a second straight win.
Trailing wins reduced Leclerc’s lead to 19 points over Verstappen in the standings for Sunday’s race.
No matter what Verstapen’s current pace is, he was one of the few drivers in race history to fail to win a pole when he lost to Lewis Hamilton last year.
Worstapen took a shot to bump Lecler but his DRS flap failed to open in his final run and wasted his chances. Now he’s relying on the Red Bull’s good long runs and tire-saving skills to defeat Lecler on Sunday.
“It’s a shame because I would have preferred one last run,” said Verstappen, who won his first career match in 2016. “
Verstappen says the Red Bull is looking at the error. While his Red Bull did not fail him, Worstapen proved faster than Leclerc, whose two wins in Bahrain and Australia came after his top rival retired. Worstappen has won all three races he has won.
Meanwhile, Spain’s best chance of winning its own Grand Prix took a decent turn when Sange finished third, qualifying for both Ferrari.
Mercedes shows a significant change from what it struggled with in the first five races of the season with its new car. George Russell has qualified fourth and again surpassed his new teammate Hamilton, who has won the last five races here. Red Bull driver Sergio Perez is the sixth-time champion among the Mercedes drivers to qualify for the sixth time with a sandwich.
Leclerc, who was the fastest in all three practice sessions before qualifying, snatched a streak of nine poles in a 4.6-kilometer circuit for Mercedes.
Qualified for Sunday’s race on a warm, sunny day on the track near Barcelona. Although there are heat wave warnings in large parts of Spain and May temperatures are among the hottest in two decades, it was still tolerable at 34 degrees when qualifying.
Ferrari was one of the few teams that brought their 2022 car upgrades to Spain and was hopeful the team would be able to stop Verstapen. But the key to tire handling on a 66-lap race on a track notorious for being hot on rubber in hot temperatures should be the key. Leclerc complained about it during practice on Friday.
“I’m in a strong position to start the race, but I’m fighting with my tires and Max right behind. If we don’t manage them well, we’ll lose that advantage,” Leclerc said.
Former champion Sebastian Vettel and local favorite Fernando Alonso both failed to make it out of the first qualifying round. When Aston Martin told Team Radio that he was 16, Vettel replied “You must be joking.”
Alonso had not yet had a happy return home. He became the 17th qualifier for the Alpine, accusing the FIA of incompetence in race control and was punished during a practice on Friday.
Spain’s best driver has struggled this season and the two-time F1 champion has scored just two points, with alpine teammate Esteban Okon scoring 24.
Mick Schumacher clocked his 10th best time after his smile needed a new gearbox as his rear right wheel caught fire during the third practice session early Saturday.
More than 100,000 fans are expected in the first Spanish GP with full viewership from 2019; The public was not allowed to attend in 2020 and only 1,000 fans were allowed inside in 2021 due to epidemic restrictions.
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