Leclerc believes he can halt Verstappen’s winning run after unexpected pole position

2022 Italian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Charles Leclerc did not need to put himself under intense pressure in qualifying at Monza in order to secure the most advantageous starting position on the grid and, with it, the best possible chance of victory heading into the Italian Grand Prix.

Ferrari “were not expecting to fight for pole” at home
With the majority of his rivals already doomed to drop significantly further back from wherever they ended up on Saturday, this was certainly the least challenging of the eight pole positions that the Ferrari driver had secured in 2022. However, Leclerc’s roar of delight at beating Max Verstappen to being fastest in qualifying demonstrated just how important securing that moral victory over their rivals was to the Scuderia.

The titles may be all but decided in Red Bull’s favour, but that will only make a Ferrari win at Monza all the more imperative – not just for the Tifosi watching expectantly from the grandstands, but to avoid another blow to the morale of the team and its drivers. It was little surprise Leclerc was so pleased to earn pole on merit.

“We still need to finalise this tomorrow, otherwise it’s pointless to do the pole on Saturday,” the pole winner said. “But it is a very good surprise today, considering where we come from, especially in Spa.

“We were not expecting to fight for pole here. So it’s a very good surprise at home. There’s a special motivation for this weekend and it’s great that we managed to do a good job today.”

With Verstappen’s relatively minor five-place grid penalty, Leclerc has effectively secured a 48-metre head start in what will surely be a straight fight between the two over 53 laps of Monza. Despite Verstappen being on unstoppable form in recent rounds, Leclerc – decked out in commemorative Modena yellow for the 75th anniversary of Ferrari – is confident he can give his team even more reasons to celebrate at the end of the weekend.

“I think the race pace is strong, the feeling was really, really good,” he said. “So, whatever happens in the first lap, I think we still have the pace to win this race, so we’ll try to put everything together, no mistakes during the race and I think we can have a good Sunday.”

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The theme throughout the season so far has been that Red Bull are unbeatable at circuits where top speed is critical. From Jeddah way back in March to Spa just two weeks ago, where Verstappen won from as far down as 14th on the grid, Verstappen has made a habit of breezing past Leclerc down a straight on his way to victory around the faster circuits on the calendar.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Monza, 2022
Red Bull are running more downforce than their rivals
Nowhere else on the calendar demands a low downforce setup quite as strongly as Monza – the fastest circuit in terms of average lap speed in the championship. So with Red Bull’s slippery, low-drag car making it the perfect match for Monza, it would be easy to assume that the team would simply trim their wings to make the most of their advantage and give Verstappen a boost as he made he way past his rivals.

However, they ended up going a different route, cranking more wing angle on the car before qualifying. But despite flying against conventional wisdom, Verstappen is convinced Red Bull have made the wisest choice.

“We chose, of course, the downforce level a bit higher, compared to some other cars,” Verstappen said, “but it felt alright.”

“Of course, you know around here qualifying to race can always feel a bit different and my race runs, they felt really good, so very happy with that pace. So, I’m actually really looking forward to the race tomorrow.”

With Verstappen demoted to seventh, George Russell inherits a front row start despite only ending qualifying sixth quickest, milliseconds behind team mate Hamilton. Russell was under no illusion that he would be in with a fighting chance of securing Mercedes’ first win of the season and fully expects Verstappen to keep his streak of wins well and truly alive, but he also anticipates Hamilton, Carlos Sainz Jnr and Sergio Perez all being able to join him during the race despite starting from the lower end of the field.

“There’s three drivers from three front teams all on their own and their team mates right at the back of the grid,” Russell explained. “So we will be in kind of two separate races.

“Those guys should be slicing through the field very quickly and if there’s a Safety Car midway through the race or whatever, they’ll be in the fight as well, if it’s timed perfectly. But I’m sure they’ll be on an offset strategy as well, so there’s still no reason that those three are out of the race because we’ve seen a few Virtual Safety Cars, a few Safety Cars, that can easily play into other people’s favour.”

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Asked what he could achieve from down in 18th on the grid, Sainz had to admit he couldn’t be sure whether he could emulate his Paul Ricard recovery and reached the top five.

George Russell, Mercedes, Monza, 2022
Russell is eyeing another podium finish
“I’m going to push, obviously, flat-out from the beginning, try to make as many positions at the start, and just get to the front as quick as possible,” Sainz said. “Because then, if there’s a Safety Car or anything, then anything can happen around Monza.

“I think it’s going to be a very mixed race, there’s a lot of cars out of position. So there’s going to be a lot of battles during the whole race. Where can I get to? I wish top five like in France would be a good result. But given how quick the Mercedes are lately, is going to be a bit more tricky.”

As ever, the Italian Grand Prix is shaping up to be a one-stop race with little to be gained from trying an extra stint due to the hefty loss of time through the pit lane due to the extreme speeds out on track. Pirelli predict that an opening stint on the soft tyres before switching to the hards will be the most effective strategy, but those starting out of position near the back of the field could try to run softer compounds near the end of the race to make their progress up the order easier.

But while Perez, Sainz and Hamilton will all be trying to slipstream their way through the field, Leclerc knows he will have an almighty challenge to keep ahead of Verstappen and secure his second visit to the top of the famous Monza podium. But if he succeeds, it could well be his best victory of his career so far – and a much needed boost for his team.

“It’s not going to be easy because for sure Max will be extremely quick and will be coming back,” Leclerc said. “But I’m sure that we can make this work.”

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Qualifying times in full

Position Number Driver Team Q1 time Q2 time (vs Q1) Q3 time (vs Q2)
1 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’21.280 1’21.208 (-0.072s) 1’20.161 (-1.047s)
2 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1’20.922 1’21.265 (+0.343s) 1’20.306 (-0.959s)
3 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 1’21.348 1’20.878 (-0.470s) 1’20.429 (-0.449s)
4 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1’21.495 1’21.358 (-0.137s) 1’21.206 (-0.152s)
5 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’22.048 1’21.708 (-0.340s) 1’21.524 (-0.184s)
6 63 George Russell Mercedes 1’21.785 1’21.747 (-0.038s) 1’21.542 (-0.205s)
7 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1’22.130 1’21.831 (-0.299s) 1’21.584 (-0.247s)
8 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1’22.139 1’21.855 (-0.284s) 1’21.925 (+0.070s)
9 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Red Bull 1’22.010 1’22.062 (+0.052s) 1’22.648 (+0.586s)
10 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1’22.089 1’21.861 (-0.228s)
11 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1’22.166 1’22.130 (-0.036s) Missed by 0.068s
12 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’22.254 1’22.235 (-0.019s) Missed by 0.173s
13 45 Nyck de Vries Williams-Mercedes 1’22.567 1’22.471 (-0.096s) Missed by 0.409s
14 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’22.003 1’22.577 (+0.574s) Missed by 0.515s
15 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Red Bull 1’22.020
16 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1’22.587 Missed by 0.020s
17 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’22.636 Missed by 0.069s
18 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’22.748 Missed by 0.181s
19 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1’22.908 Missed by 0.341s
20 47 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1’23.005 Missed by 0.438s

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Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Charles Leclerc 26.733 (1) 26.875 (3) 26.553 (1)
George Russell 27.063 (8) 27.527 (8) 26.852 (4)
Lando Norris 27.060 (7) 27.583 (12) 26.941 (5)
Daniel Ricciardo 27.095 (13) 27.669 (16) 27.030 (6)
Pierre Gasly 27.075 (11) 27.588 (13) 27.131 (9)
Fernando Alonso 27.134 (14) 27.506 (6) 27.071 (7)
Max Verstappen 26.918 (2) 26.813 (2) 26.575 (2)
Nyck de Vries 27.068 (9) 27.661 (15) 27.264 (10)
Zhou Guanyu 27.068 (9) 27.652 (14) 27.283 (11)
Nicholas Latifi 27.045 (5) 27.982 (20) 27.560 (17)
Sebastian Vettel 27.233 (17) 27.765 (17) 27.638 (19)
Lance Stroll 27.251 (18) 27.950 (19) 27.538 (16)
Sergio Perez 27.208 (16) 27.179 (4) 26.771 (3)
Esteban Ocon 27.093 (12) 27.517 (7) 27.283 (11)
Valtteri Bottas 27.027 (4) 27.765 (17) 27.311 (13)
Kevin Magnussen 27.443 (19) 27.582 (11) 27.346 (15)
Mick Schumacher 27.797 (20) 27.568 (10) 27.602 (18)
Carlos Sainz Jnr 27.055 (6) 26.524 (1)
Lewis Hamilton 27.022 (3) 27.419 (5) 27.083 (8)
Yuki Tsunoda 27.156 (15) 27.549 (9) 27.315 (14)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Engine Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 347.8 (216.1)
2 Nyck de Vries Williams Mercedes 346.9 (215.6) -0.9
3 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari Ferrari 346.0 (215.0) -1.8
4 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 344.2 (213.9) -3.6
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Red Bull 344.0 (213.8) -3.8
6 Sergio Perez Red Bull Red Bull 343.8 (213.6) -4.0
7 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 343.6 (213.5) -4.2
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari Ferrari 343.2 (213.3) -4.6
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Red Bull 342.5 (212.8) -5.3
10 Max Verstappen Red Bull Red Bull 342.5 (212.8) -5.3
11 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 341.8 (212.4) -6.0
12 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 341.6 (212.3) -6.2
13 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes 341.5 (212.2) -6.3
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 341.3 (212.1) -6.5
15 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 340.4 (211.5) -7.4
16 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 340.3 (211.5) -7.5
17 George Russell Mercedes Mercedes 340.3 (211.5) -7.5
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes 339.6 (211.0) -8.2
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 338.4 (210.3) -9.4
20 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes 334.4 (207.8) -13.4

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Over to you

Will Ferrari stop Verstappen winning his fifth grand prix in a row? After wins for Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly in the last two years, will Monza serve up another surprise?

Share your views on the Italian Grand Prix in the comments.

2022 Italian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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16 comments on “Leclerc believes he can halt Verstappen’s winning run after unexpected pole position”

  1. I’m sure Ferrari’s strategists have something special up their sleeves to screw up Charles’ race.

  2. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
    11th September 2022, 5:17

    I’m actually almost hoping that Ferrari royally messes up in the race. Maybe a healthy dose of humiliation at their home circuit will be what it takes for them to finally implement some necessary changes.

    … or not. Probably not. But hey, it’s worth a shot.

    1. No, no, I’m gonna hope they don’t make mistakes because if they do they won’t learn, they would have already considering the title lost.

  3. Will Ferrari stop Verstappen from winning his fifth Grand Prix in a row? – No, unlikely.
    After wins for Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly in the last two years, will Monza serve up another surprise? – Possible, but probably not this time.

  4. Aside from the wing. Something was definitely done to that Ferrari so they can have a shot at winning Monza over everything else. Perhaps they are running the engine in do-or-die-mode, or something.

    But good on Ferrari for showing up, let’s see how it pans out for them.

    1. Yep, but that would make the race very interesting. Because either they turn it down on sunday and Verstappen breezes by Leclerc, or it goes up in flames. Either way, Ferrari only dug their hole deeper by getting pole on saturday through questionable means.

      Which is no surprise at all, it’s Ferrari doing it after all!

      1. @duuxdeluxe so Ferrari are cheating, gotcha.

        1. What “questionable means” were uses on the quali yesteday?

  5. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    11th September 2022, 10:07

    I look forward to Leclerc strategy later today,

    Hard – Medium – back to original Hards – 2 laps on Softs – why not, back to those used Hards again.

    1. @brightlampshade LEC must be fast reacting to the lights because after watching F2 and F3 they go out superfast.

  6. If Max gets caught in a few DRS trains then the win looks good for Charles.
    It will be interesting to see how Max’ higher downforce setup works in the pack.

    1. Yeah same here, that higher downforce might negatively impact overtakes (unless the car’s raw speed is significantly better) but it should give his tyres more life and put him at a strategic advantage. It will (hopefully) be fascinating and adds an extra variable to an already varied starting grid!

  7. When I first got into F1 I used to cheer Ferrari’s mishaps, I recall loving Coulthard flipping the bird at Michael Schumacher.

    But now I’d like to see them make the right calls and I would very much like to see a Ferrari win at Monza. I’m not entirely convinced it will happen, but I don’t doubt that Ferrari have thrown everything at this. Maybe they’ve mapped their power unit to levels a Starfleet Engineer would never recommend so they can warp speed it down those long straights and are hoping it doesn’t go bang before the end of the race (warp core breach!), maybe they’ve trimmed the car down so it punches through the air like a javelin, whatever they’ve done – I would like to see a smile on Leclerc’s little face and a load of cheering Tifosi. Especially seeing as my Fantasy F1 team and predictions are built on this, and my wife is only about 10 points behind me in the league.

  8. “Halt”, and they even thinking of halting it?

Comments are closed.