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Charles Leclerc

The mistake that cost Leclerc and promoted McLaren

Charles Leclerc was matching Max Verstappen during his final Q3 attempt, but a costly mistake gifted McLaren their best qualifying performance to date.

Leclerc Silverstone
To news overview © XPBimages

It came as quite a shock when Lando Norris crossed the line on his final attempt in Q3 and provisionally took pole position.

The British crowd roared into life for a moment before Max Verstappen took the chequered flag and beat his best time by 0.241secs, leading to an echo of pantomime groans.

Unbeknown to them was the lap Charles Leclerc was putting together, with the Ferrari driver matching Verstappen around much of the 5.8km circuit.

But a costly mistake from the Monegasque is what enabled Verstappen to take a fifth pole in succession, while also handing McLaren their first front-row start since the 2021 Russian Grand Prix.

Managing the changing conditions

Going into qualifying, Red Bull knew that the out-lap was the most important factor when putting together a timed effort.

It's what ultimately led to Sergio Perez's fifth early exit in a row, after he failed to fire life into his tyres having sat at the end of the pits for nine minutes in the cool 20°C conditions before his final run in Q1.

Leclerc made sure he was ahead of Carlos Sainz when they did the preparation for the final runs after the pair squabbled over who got preference earlier in the session.

Another factor was the DRS, which was enabled at the start of Q3 when the track was deemed dry and no longer slippery by Race Control.

The DRS is one of the main weapons of the RB19, as the team exhibited in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan.

On Friday, the Ferrari matched the speeds of Red Bull using DRS for the first time this season, with both clocking 326kph in the speed trap.

Head-to-head Leclerc vs Verstappen vs Norris

Sector Leclerc Verstappen Norris
1 27.461 27.482 27.544
2 35.384 35.201 35.312
3 24.291 24.004 24.105

Where Leclerc was challenging Verstappen for pole

A look at the data shows there were several moments where Leclerc had the edge on Verstappen, notably the first DRS zone at the Wellington Straight.

Verstappen was deeper on the brakes into Vale and quicker exiting Luffield, but Leclerc picked up the pace on the run down the National Straight, through the high-speed Copse, and into Maggots and Becketts.

Verstappen gained time exiting Chapel and onto the Hangar Straight, the RB19 showcasing its ability to change direction quickly without scrubbing off speed.

Leclerc was initially quicker into Stowe but made a mistake midway through the corner which caused him to lose 20kph in cornering speed. The Monegasque attributes the error to the low sunset, as Q3 started over 10 minutes later than it should have owing to the earlier red flags.

"I maybe did not expect for the sun to go out that much," he told media, including RacingNews365.com.

"I went a bit aggressive with the front wing, and I lost the rear in some corners and that cost me quite a bit."

That mistake alone was enough to lose him three-tenths to Verstappen, with his time 0.416s off the best set by the Dutchman. Had Leclerc not made the mistake, he would've been within a tenth and comfortably on the front row of the grid.

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