Leclerc gets top ten start despite missing Q3

Charles Leclerc (MON) Sauber F1 Team C37.
© XPB 

Sauber's Charles Leclerc was disappointed not to make it through to the final round of qualifying on Saturday in Suzuka.

He missed out on progressing from Q2 by just 0.016s in a closely contested battle with the two Honda-powered Toro Rossos.

"It is a shame that we did not make it to Q3 today," said the 20-year-old Monegasque driver immediately after the end of the session. "The pace was there in qualifying.

"I made a small mistake on my first push lap in Q2, and it was not possible to improve my lap time after the rain started again.

"Overall, it was a positive day and we see the potential is there for a good performance tomorrow," he said. "I look forward to being back on track.”

As it turns out, he will start tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix inside the top ten after all, as a result of a three place grid penalty handed to Esteban Ocon for speeding under a red flag in the earlier final practice.

It's the best of both worlds for Leclerc. Drivers who did make it through to Q3 have to start the race on the same set of tyres on which they completed their fastest second round lap, but he will still have a free choice about which compound to fit on the car.

"We can gain an advantage by starting the race on the tyres of our choice," Leclerc agreed.

Meanwhile there was no silver lining for his team mate Marcus Ericsson, who caused a red flag in the first round of qualifying after spinning out and crashing into the barrier at Dunlop.

"It is disappointing to finish like this after a strong weekend," said the Swede. "Unfortunately, qualifying did not go as I would have liked it to.

The damaged Sauber C37 of Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber

"It was a tricky day with the weather making it quite challenging to drive. I was carrying a bit too much speed as I approached turn 7, and with the wind being quite strong in that section I spun off track.

"It is a shame to have a qualifying like this. We will do our best to recover as many positions as possible during tomorrow’s race."

Ericsson will have to start from the back of the grid, unless there are any further penalties overnight for cars ahead of him.

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