Charles Leclerc says starting the Mexican Grand Prix from pole position should give the extra advantage of making it easier to keep his car cool in the hot conditions.
Cooling is especially important in the high altitude of Mexico City. Leclerc hopes that by staying ahead of his rivals he can avoid the disadvantage of running in the hot air of other cars.
“It’s a very difficult race here,” he said. “Everything can can happen, especially with the cooling, where whichever car that is behind will do a bit more management. So it can play in our favour.”
However he acknowledged he will first have to ensure he does not lose his advantage from pole position on the long run to turn one.
“We need to do a good start and starting first here is always tricky to keep that position into the first corner. But we’ve had pretty good starts this year so I’m confident we can keep that first place into turn one and then we’ll try and do our best race.”
Leclerc will have his team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr alongside him at the start but expects the strongest threat will come from Max Verstappen in third place behind them.
“This year clearly Max has been extremely strong on on the race pace. So at the moment it’s Max [who is the favourite]. We still have a lot of work to do as a team I think to match them with our race pace.”
Leclerc’s pole position came as a surprise to many as he had only been sixth-fastest in Q2. He said he found eight tenths of a second to take pole in Q3 by “just having a cleaner lap.”
“In Q2 it was a bit messy with the traffic exiting the pit lane,” he explained. “The warm-up is super-important and it’s very, very difficult to put the tyres in the right window here. So everything makes a difference.
“It was very bad in the out-lap, then I had a bit of traffic also in my lap and all of that made a huge difference. But it made a much bigger difference than what I thought because even though I knew there was a bit more time coming, I did not expect to gain eight tenths.”
An error on Leclerc’s final lap in Q3 meant he was unable to improve further, though he was still quick enough to take pole position.
“I didn’t gain much from the first to the second lap just because I locked up in turn four, I think it was,” he said. “So from that moment onwards I knew my lap was basically done. So it wasn’t that much of a surprise that I wasn’t able to improve on that second lap.”
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