The Alfa Romeo Sauber Team enjoyed a stunning qualifying session in Brazil yesterday to wind up as the “best of the rest” with Marcus Ericsson, in his penultimate grand prix, qualifying a career best P7 while team mate Charles Leclerc performed heroics to get into Q3 and then capped that with the P8 time.
The Brazilian Grand Prix weekend on track started on Friday with the two free practice sessions and a smooth day in Sao Paulo saw Leclerc, and the Swiss team’s new signing for 2019, Antonio Giovinazzi, completing the first session of the day.
With a focus on aerodynamic testing, the team set out to optimise its performance for the upcoming qualifying and race. Both drivers were in strong form, and concluded FP1 in the midfield, with Leclerc finishing in 9th, and Antonio Giovinazzi in 13th place.
Ericsson returned to his cockpit for the second free practice session, where he and Leclerc tested a different aerodynamic configuration and completed tyre tests across the compounds.
The two drivers quickly proved that the team’s potential on this track was good and gave a hint towards the qualifying performance by putting in solid times during both the short- and long-runs. Again, the team finished the session in the midfield positions with Leclerc in P8 and Ericsson in P15.
For yesterday’s qualifying session the drivers and teams all down the grid would be really challenged to put in perfect laps as the short track means there are minimal gaps between the lap times of all competitors. The unpredictable weather conditions of the weekend would also represent an extra challenge on the demanding Interlagos track, the theatre of many legendary battles in the history of Formula One.
And so it proved, as the Brazilian spectators saw a fantastic qualifying session unfold which resulted in another double Q3 finish placing Ericsson and Leclerc in P7 and P8 respectively, securing their spots at the top of the midfield - the "best of the rest" behind the unassailable Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull teams. This achievement is a result of a great group effort, with the team and both of the drivers having extracted their maximum potential.
The day in fact started with the third and final free practice session, FP3, that saw the team finalise their preparations ahead of the qualifying session. With rain in sight, the team prepared their strategy for the unpredictable weather conditions that lay ahead of them.
A dry Q1 saw Ericsson and Leclerc put in strong performances, however, phases of light rain at the beginning of Q2 added a twist to the plot. While Ericsson had already secured his entry into Q3 and stayed in the garage as the rain continued to come down, Leclerc faced a different set of challenges.
The rookie put in a stunning performance in the last minutes of Q2. Determined to advance to Q3, despite being in eleventh place, he exited the pits on used tyres and in the rain and gave everything he had during a final attempt to fight for a grid position in the top ten.
“No, no, no, no, I want to stay out,” he said on the radio. “We go for one more and I try.” Leclerc impressively achieved his goal and joined Ericsson for the final round of qualifying.
With the threat of rain always there, the drivers set out to complete their final qualifying laps in the Q3 session ahead of today’s race, eager to position themselves as far forward as possible. Ericsson delivered an excellent performance throughout, and finally qualified in 7th, celebrating his best career qualifying, while Leclerc finished the session in 8th place.
C37 (Chassis 05/Ferrari)
Qualifying:7th in Q3 (1:08.296 / supersoft tyres) / 2nd practice: 15th / 1:10.532 min (44 laps) / 3rd practice: 13th (1:09.808 / supersoft tyres / 23 laps)
“It was a great day for us as a team, with both cars at the top of the midfield – a super performance. I am happy for the whole team and, as for myself, this is the best qualifying I have had in Formula One. I managed to improve in every segment, even in these tricky conditions, and didn’t make any mistakes. The car felt good and it is just great to deliver such a result for the team. With Charles just behind we have great starting positions for tomorrow, and I look forward to the race where we will aim to score some good points.”
C37 (Chassis 02/Ferrari)
Qualifying: 8th in Q3 (1:08.492 / supersoft tyres) / 1st practice: 9th / 1:10.346 min (28 laps) / 2nd practice: 8th / 1:09.943 (44 laps) / 3rd practice: 10th (1:09.448 / supersoft tyres / 21 laps)
“What an amazing day for the team. Qualifying as best of the rest, with both cars having such strong results is an incredible achievement that we should all be proud of. I was very happy with my lap at the end of Q2, a bit less in Q3. Marcus did an incredible job today, and well done to him.”
C37 (Chassis 05/Ferrari)
1st practice: 13th / 1:10.685 min (29 laps)
“It was a good session this morning. The programme was quite similar to the previous free practice sessions I have completed so far, and my target was to give the team as much feedback as possible. I enjoyed driving here in Sao Paulo, and now look forward to my next session in Abu Dhabi.
Photos: Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team - 2018 FIA F1 World Championship
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