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Surprised Leclerc thought McLaren would top midfield

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Surprised Leclerc thought McLaren would top midfield
By:
Jun 10, 2018, 9:30 AM

Sauber’s F1 rookie sensation Charles Leclerc says he’s surprised to be starting in front of both McLarens in the Canadian Grand Prix, as he expected the Woking team "to be on top of the midfield".

Charles Leclerc, Sauber C37
Charles Leclerc, Sauber C37
Charles Leclerc, Sauber C37
Charles Leclerc, Sauber C37
Charles Leclerc, Sauber C37
Charles Leclerc, Sauber C37, is returned to the garage
Charles Leclerc, Sauber C37
Charles Leclerc, Sauber C37
Charles Leclerc, Sauber C37

Leclerc made it to Q2 for the fourth time in a row on Saturday, and will start the Canadian GP from 13th place, six places ahead of teammate Marcus Ericsson who damaged his car in qualifying.

"It felt great," Leclerc told Motorsport.com. "A very positive day for us. Fourth Q2 in a row, I could not be happier. 

"I think we maximised the car that we had here. We had a very good balance, I’m very happy with the lap, it’s a great day for us."

Leclerc beat both McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, which the 20-year-old rookie admitted was "a bit of a surprise", as he expected them "to be on top of the midfield".

Both McLarens were in the top 10 in FP1, before Alonso and Vandoorne took 10th in FP2 and FP3 respectively.

When asked if he expected to outpace both McLarens in qualifying, Leclerc, whose best practice result was 11th in FP2, said: "Not really, actually this is a bit of a surprise as [on Friday] we expected them to be on top of the midfield.

"For us it was quite clear they were on top of the midfield, but [in qualifying] they seemed to struggle a bit more, so it was a surprise to me."

Montreal masks Sauber's weak points

Leclerc believes that Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve masks the shortcomings of his Sauber, compared to its more illustrious and bigger-budgeted rivals.

"I think our big defect for now on our car is the lack of downforce," he said.

"When we come to a track like this where we don’t really need much downforce, basically it takes off a little bit our defect, so it is placing us a little bit better. 

"Hopefully we will improve on that matter and we can come back stronger on the tracks where we need a bit more downforce."

Buoyed by his sixth place in Baku, and a point in Spain, Leclerc feared he might struggle at a circuit he’d never raced on before.

He admitted to struggling with the proximity of some of the walls initially – including the infamous Wall of Champions – but felt he conquered the challenge by Q2.

"I was struggling a little bit before qualifying in the last corner, which is a very tricky corner," he said.

"Here, on my fast lap, I just went for it and thought ‘if I go into the wall it’s like this’ but everything went well, so I’m pretty happy with my lap today.

"I expected a harder weekend here – as I didn’t know the track in Montreal and it’s quite tricky from what I’d heard and now what I’ve experienced. 

"I’m even more happy about the performance we’ve had to day considering I didn’t know the track, and I definitely feel more confident in the car race after race."

Additional reporting by Jack Benyon

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About this article

Series Formula 1
Event Canadian GP
Location Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve
Drivers Charles Leclerc
Teams Sauber
Author Charles Bradley