Leclerc warns Ferrari will face Spa race test

By Sports Desk August 31, 2019

Charles Leclerc warned Ferrari can expect a major race-day challenge from Mercedes at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Ferrari on Saturday secured their first front-row lockout since the second race of the season in Bahrain, with the Italian team finishing first in every practice session and all three portions of qualifying.

A dominant Leclerc was an astonishing 0.748 seconds clear of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, the largest advantage any driver has achieved in the 2019 season and the sixth time in a row he has out-qualified the German.

Mercedes and Red Bull were even further behind, with Lewis Hamilton third followed by Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen, but Leclerc insists the race-pace performance for each of the main teams will be very different to what they could demonstrate over a single lap.

Asked for his Sunday expectations, Leclerc said: "I don't know. We have been quick since FP1 but once we did the race simulations in FP2 we weren't as quick, so I think it's not going to be easy.

"We'll try to give everything. The Saturday gap is quite big but it doesn't mean it will be like that on Sunday so we will be working hard to improve the race run from Friday and we will see."

The race will be overshadowed by Saturday's tragic death of Anthoine Hubert, who lost his life at the age of 22 following a Formula 2 crash at the Spa circuit.

That incident came after the Formula One grid placings were settled, and Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said the "dreadful" situation was "a brutal reminder that this sport that we love so much is still very dangerous".

Leclerc, speaking before that tragic news emerged, said of his pole position: "It obviously feels amazing. It was very tricky, especially in Q3 I struggled quite a lot - the start of the lap was always very messy. But in the end I managed to do the rest of the lap OK. I did not expect to be that far ahead."

The 21-year-old's pole was his third of the season, while Vettel started from first position in Canada, but a series of mishaps, controversies and misfortunes have meant Ferrari are somehow yet to win a race in 2019.

In Bahrain, a heart-breaking late engine problem for Leclerc handed victory to Hamilton, while Verstappen passed him for a famous win in Austria.

Leclerc said: "Obviously Bahrain was nothing to do with me, so nothing to take from there. Austria – lesson learned – but I already showed it in Silverstone as I spoke about the [aggression] level I had with my opponents.

"At first it feels a bit weird coming to Formula One when you are doing your first laps in the lead, but the more laps I do in the lead, the more comfortable I am."

Vettel won last year's race at Spa but has not tasted victory in the 12 months since.

He said of his qualifying effort: "Messy. I was getting into a sort of rhythm, it took a little bit longer for me to get hold of the car but Q3 felt quite messy, a lot of queuing for the last corner with everyone trying to get a tow.

"Then the tyres are not there where they are meant to be and being further back in the line was not easy, but obviously Charles did a better job.

"The straights were good but I was too close [to the other cars] and lost quite a bit in the second sector. Not happy with my final attempt, it wasn't clean - but I'm not worried."

Related items

  • Blaney pips Newman to victory at 1000Bulbs.com 500 Blaney pips Newman to victory at 1000Bulbs.com 500

    Ryan Blaney beat Ryan Newman by mere inches in an incredible finish at the 1000Bulbs.com 500.

    Everyone expected the "Big One" at Talladega Superspeedway to cause havoc for NASCAR's playoff drivers on Monday after Sunday's race was rescheduled.

    Yet no one could have foreseen the carnage or the type of finish as Blaney pipped Newman at the finish line for his first victory of 2019 and third of his career.

    The margin of victory – 7/1,000ths of a second – is the sixth-closest finish of all-time in NASCAR's top series.

    While the victory clinches Blaney a spot in the Round of 8 in the NASCAR playoffs, other playoff drivers were not so fortunate, as all 12 were involved in one or more multicar crashes or other mayhem.

    William Byron won the first stage of the race on Sunday before wet weather postponed the finish to Monday. 

    Clint Bowyer won Stage 2 after he managed to avoid "the Big One" on lap 106 when Alex Bowman – who was running in second place – got turned around on the backstretch while trying to block a charging Joey Logano.

    Playoff drivers Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson were also caught in the crash.

    The yellow flag came out with 36 laps remaining after Bowyer went for a solo spin off Turn 4 and needed a wrecker to help get his car unstuck from the steep banking. A few laps later, another big crash erupted when a chain-reaction pileup in the lower drafting line got Byron loose, and he turned into Logano, as the two collected several other cars. While Logano returned to the track, Byron was finished for the day.

    With less than 10 laps remaining, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski were involved in another big crash, which saw Brendan Gaughan go briefly airborne.

    Blaney led the way on the restart with two laps remaining and held off the rest of the field as yet another multicar crash broke out on the final lap.

  • F1 Raceweek: The joy of six - how Mercedes broke constructors' record F1 Raceweek: The joy of six - how Mercedes broke constructors' record

    It was only a matter of time before Mercedes broke Ferrari's record by sealing a sixth consecutive Formula One constructors' titles.

    The Silver Arrows were celebrating yet again after achieving that feat at the Japanese Grand Prix, where Valtteri Bottas took the chequered flag ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton finished third.

    Mercedes have held the title since dethroning Red Bull in 2014, dominating the sport with Hamilton winning four titles during that time and standing on the brink of another this season.

    We look back on the level of dominance the Brackley-based team have enjoyed.

     

    2014 - A sign of things to come

    Red Bull had taken the title for four years in a row before Mercedes ended that sequence in 2014.

    Hamilton claimed his second world title - and his first for the team - ahead of colleague Nico Rosberg and the Silver Arrows duo amassed 701 points to win by a margin of 296.

    They won 16 races and secured 31 podium finishes in a dominant season which was the sign of things to come.

     

    2015 - More of the same with a marginal gain

    Mercedes bettered their tally for the season by two points as Hamilton retained his title, Rosberg once again runner-up.

    They matched the number of victories secured in 2014, as well as the incredible total of 18 poles for the campaign.

    There was an additional podium finish for the back-to-back constructors' champions by 275 points ahead of Ferrari as rivals were left trailing in their wake.

     

    2016 - Rosberg reigns as Mercedes move to another level

    The Silver arrows took their dominance to another level in 2016, winning 19 of 21 races. 

    While Mercedes were never in danger of losing their constructors' title, finishing 297 points better off than Red Bull, Hamilton and Rosberg fought it out in an enthralling battle for the drivers' crown.

    It was Rosberg who came out on top on this occasion by just five points and the German retired after a season that saw Mercedes fail to secure pole only once and amass 33 podiums.

     

    2017 - New line-up, no let-up

    A new driver line-up did not stop Mercedes from adding another constructors' title to their haul two years ago.

    Normal service was resumed as Hamilton regained the title, denying Vettel by 46 points with Bottas third in the standings after taking Rosberg's seat.

    There were 12 wins, 15 poles and 26 podium finishes for Mercedes in 2017 as Ferrari were more competitive, although the Scuderia were still as many as 146 points adrift of the constructors' champions.

     

    2018 - Ferrari close the gap, but Mercedes clean up again

    A promising start for Vettel and Ferrari last season proved to be a false down as Hamilton claimed his fifth world title.

    Ferrari finished with 84 points fewer than Mercedes as Hamilton and Bottas took the chequered flag 11 times between them.

    Mercedes were not quite as prolific in qualifying, taking pole 13 times as their points tally was down at 655 from 668 12 months earlier.

     

    2019 - Six of the best

    With four races remaining Mercedes already have one title in the bag, with Hamilton closing in on another.

    A win for Bottas in Suzuka and Hamilton's third place has the champions on 612 to Ferrari's 433.

    Mercedes have only failed to win five of 17 races, which makes for grim reading for their rivals.

  • NASCAR's 1000Bulbs.com to resume on Monday due to rain NASCAR's 1000Bulbs.com to resume on Monday due to rain

    Rain halted NASCAR's 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway after the first stage on Sunday.

    William Bryon was leading when the race was stopped with 57 of the scheduled 188 laps completed.

    The race will now be completed in Alabama on Monday.

    NASCAR red-flagged the race with Byron leading. Byron, who entered the playoff race eighth in the standings, won the first stage.

    Dryers were brought out in an attempt to dry the track, but more rain was forecast, forcing the decision to postpone the event's finish.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.