Leclerc almost aborted P2 lap in Q3 amid lack of grip


Charles Leclerc clocked in with the second fastest lap in Saturday’s shortened Q3 in Sao Paulo, but the Ferrari charger almost aborted his flyer as he struggled for grip.

The final segment of qualifying was cut short by four minutes when the red flagged was deployed as a storm rolled in over Interlagos and thunder and lightning erupted.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who had run early claimed pole for Sunday’s race and beat Leclerc by 0.294s, while the Aston Marin duo of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso, who also set their times at the start of Q3, concluded the session a surprising P3 and P4.

Under the dark menacing skies and with the wind speed quickly picking up, Leclerc said that conditions gave he the impression that the rain had set. But grip was simply at a premium on the track.

"To be honest, today was, in my whole career, I've never experienced something like that,” the Monegasque explained. “From Turn 4 onwards there was no rain. But the car was extremely difficult to drive - no grip.

"I was thinking about just coming in at the end of the lap. Then I finished and then P2, so it's a really good surprise. But it's a very weird one for everybody out on track today.

"In those sprint weekends, there's always a big question mark on the race pace. But I hope it will be a good one.

"Hopefully there won't be too much rain tomorrow [for the sprint race] and Sunday.”

Verstappen echoed Leclerc’s comments, admitting that his first and only flyer in the session felt “terrible”.

“We didn't know when [rain] would hit in qualifying but we thought it would hit,” said the Dutchman.

"But this is, of course, insane weather. Charles and I were just discussing our laps, they felt terrible.

"I think the wind started to change and started to be very strong. We lost a lot of lap time because of it. It was all quite hectic in the last lap."

"It seems that is all very close. You can see that already in qualifying.

"I expect the same also in the race around here - there is always quite a lot of [degradation] from the tyres. So, it's all about that management."

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