Charles Leclerc admits team-mate Sebastian Vettel’s pace during qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix was “too quick” for him to beat, as the Monegasque’s run of consecutive pole positions came to an end as Vettel claimed pole in the other Ferrari.
Sebastian Vettel’s surprise pole position comes at a crucial time in his intense intra-team battle with team-mate Leclerc, and is the first time the German has out-qualified his team-mate since his pole position back at the Canadian Grand Prix in June.
The Ferrari duo were expected to play second fiddle to Mercedes given the downforce requirements, particularly in the first sector, of the Suzuka circuit, however the two Ferrari drivers knocked Mercedes’ best effort out of the park with their qualifying runs in Q3, with Bottas out-qualifying Hamilton a possible bonus for the Ferrari team in the race.
“Seb did an amazing lap, today he deserves to be on pole,” Charles Leclerc said after qualifying, which was the first part of a super Sunday, qualifying-race back-to-back.
“I’ve been struggling a bit since the beginning of the weekend, but to be honest I was pretty happy with my lap now in qualifying apart from the last sector where I did a few mistakes, so pole was not possible.
“Seb was just too quick, so congratulations to him. I’m very happy and very surprised to be first and second after the free practices we had. The race is the most important. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep these positions. Mercedes are very quick in the race, so it’s not going to be easy, but we’ll try to focus on our job and keep this one-two.”