Charles Leclerc hopes Ferrari have put recent troubles behind them after giving the Italian team a great chance of winning on home soil by taking pole at Monza on Saturday.
The man from Monaco is in prime position to record his first win since Austria in early July thanks to his eighth pole of the season, which came after a rapid final qualifying lap around the Temple of Speed which put him 0.145 seconds ahead of championship leader Max Verstappen.
He also benefits from nearly half the drivers at the Italian Grand Prix being hit with grid penalties, including reigning champion Verstappen who was docked five places for exceeding his engine allocation on Friday.
A win in front of massed ranks of passionate Ferrari fans would be the perfect antidote to a campaign which has been littered with mishaps and blunders.
The nadir came in a farcical team display at last weekend’s Dutch GP which was punctured by errors including bungled pit-stops, unsafe releases in the pit lane and erratic strategy calls.
“It’s not because we’re here at Monza that it’s more important than other races not to make any mistakes,” Leclerc told reporters.
“We need to become a team which does no mistakes wherever we go. Yes it is a special weekend for us but the target for us doesn’t change, we just need to have a clean race and a good race.”
This was Ferrari’s 22nd pole at Monza on the famous Italian constructor’s 75th anniversary, marked by a dash of yellow on the team’s livery this weekend.
Leclerc will try to cut Verstappen’s 109-point lead at the top of the drivers’ standings in front of Ferrari chairman John Elkann.
– ‘Special’ Monza –
The Agnelli family scion said in an interview with the Gazzetta Dello Sport published on Saturday that a world title will come before 2026 and said Leclerc was in “pole position” to claim a first drivers’ crown for Ferrari since 2007.
“Monza is always special, to get the pole position here is always special, is always incredible,” Leclerc said later to Sky Sport Italia.
“I think we have found something. We need to confirm it tomorrow because it’s tomorrow that counts but to have such a positive Saturday gives us something to smile about.”
Leclerc will be mindful that Verstappen charged up the field from 14th position to Spa-Francorchamps to win the Belgian Grand Prix last month.
The Red Bull driver is on a run of four GP triumphs in a row and was confident he could get his first ever win at Monza — where he has never even got on the podium — despite the grid penalty.
“I just need to have a clean lap one, clear the cars between us quite quickly and I think we still have a good chance, yeah,” he told reporters.
George Russell, who posted the sixth fastest time in qualifying for Mercedes, will start alongside Leclerc on the front row due to further grid penalties to Carlos Sainz, Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton.
A total of nine drivers have been knocked down the grid, with Sainz and seven-time champion Hamilton starting at the back alongside Yuki Tsunoda.
The second row after the raft of sanctions is an all McLaren affair of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, last year’s Monza winner.
Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and the Alpine of Fernando Alonso occupy the third row, with Verstappen joined by Nyck de Vries on the fourth row.
De Vries was thrown into the F1 deep end, making his debut after stepping in for Alex Albon at the last minute.
Williams driver Albon, 26, had to abandon the GP on Saturday after being diagnosed with appendicitis.
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