Charles Leclerc reckons he'll need to pull out the stops and produce "a special lap" to beat Red Bull to pole in Monaco, but the local hero isn't dismissing Ferrari's other rivals.
After enduring a string of disappointing races, the most recent of which in Miami saw him crash twice, Charles Leclerc finds himself on the cusp of his home race with a burning desire to reignite his racing fortunes.
Fueled by the fervent support of his Monegasque fans, the Ferrari charger is determined to deliver a standout performance in front of his home crowd.
But prevailing through Monte Carlo's treacherous twists and turns will require flawless execution all weekend by both team and driver against Red Bull's dominant RB19 steered by Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, starting in qualifying on Saturday.
"I mean honestly I think Red Bull is still the team to beat," said Leclerc on Thursday. "With a special lap, maybe we can beat them in qualifying."
Leclerc did just that in Baku where Ferrari's single-lap pace and a clean performance carried him to pole.
But in race trim, beating Red Bull to the checkered flag will be a tall order, not to mention contending with the ambitions of Aston Martin and Mercedes.
"In the race they are extremely quick," he added. "But again, on a track like this overtaking is very difficult. And not only Red Bull is quick — Aston Martin will be in the mix, Mercedes arrived with a very different looking car, which I’m curious to see how it performs.
"We need to see where we are and what’s possible."
Racing past familiar landmarks on the streets on which he grew up is in itself a special experience for Leclerc.
But negotiating Monaco's narrow lanes in qualifying while going all-in around Casino Square is a thrill like none other he says.
"Whenever we get to this track it’s all about going step by step to the limit until qualifying, where you go all-out, and that’s such an incredible feeling," explained the two-time pole winner in Monaco.
"Just the excitement and the adrenaline that you get around this track is amazing.
"It reminds me a little bit of my karting days where you don’t really have time to think, because there are no straights — it’s corners after corners.
"It’s just really exciting and probably is the best qualifying of the year for sure."
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