Leclerc hails 'great surprise' after winning Monza pole

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari celebrates his pole position in qualifying parc ferme. 10.09.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Qualifying
© XPB 

Charles Leclerc was delighted to win pole position for Ferrari's home race, and leaving him basking in the adoration of the team's fanatical Tifosi fans in the grandstands of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.

"I did not expect to fight for pole here, so it's great surprise to have pole at home," he said after the end of Saturday's qualifying session for the Italian Grand Prix.

"It's a very good surprise today, especially where we came from in Spa," he added. "We were really struggling at Spa, and [here] we found some pace. It shows we are going in the right direction."

Although Leclerc had been fastest in first practice on Friday ahead of team mate Carlos Sainz, he slipped to third in the afternoon. He rebounded to second fastest in FP3 albeit still three and a half tenths behind Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

"In FP1 and FP2 we tested a lot of things across cars with Carlos and we found different directions that were interesting," he commented.

Verstappen also seemed to have the edge in the first round of qualifying, but Ferrari took charge with a 1-2 in Q2 and then Leclerc was fastest of anyone in the final top ten pole shoot-out round.

"The lap I'm extremely happy with," he said. "The first run I didn't do a great lap, but then I managed to put everything together."

Asked what he's done to go so much quicker in his final run through the Lesmos, Leclerc replied: “Just took much more risks!”, adding: “It was the last lap and I knew I had to find quite a lot of performance there and I just went for it and it worked out.”

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari F1-75; Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18; Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18; and Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari F1-75 in qualifying parc ferme. 10.09.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Qualifying

It meant that he finished ahead of Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton, all of whom have grid penalties for taking extra engine components this weekend and therefore never in the running for pole.

Instead his main threat was from George Russell who was fifth in qualifying, and will now start alongside Leclerc on the front row for tomorrow's race.

Having taken pole for the start of tomorrow's Grand Prix, Leclerc feels that he has the car to also win the race while the other drivers fight their way back from further down the grid.

"Our race pace is strong, the feeling was really good," he said . "Whatever happens on the first lap, I think we still have the pace to win the race. I think we can have a good Sunday."

It's the first time that Leclerc has been on pole position since France. His most recent win was the preceding Austrian Grand Prix, as he's slipped further behind Verstappen in the drivers championship in recent outings.

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