Charles Leclerc described qualifying at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix as “the strangest session of my career” due to the impact of wind as a storm arrived in the closing stages.
Rain had been threatening for much of qualifying but the start of Q3 saw skies darken dramatically and the wind pick up, leaving just one run possible before heavy rain hit. All of the drivers failed to match their Q2 times despite the rain not yet hitting, and Leclerc nearly aborted his lap that turned out to be good enough for second place.
“That was one of, or probably the strangest session of my career,” Leclerc said after taking shelter (pictured above) from the cloudburst that followed the truncated session. “Especially the last run… there was no rain around but the wind changed completely, and it was extremely difficult.
“We just had to guess where the grip was, and I did a good lap so I’m happy even though it’s very, very difficult in those conditions. Happy anyway with second place — it’s a good place to fight for Sunday.
“To be honest today, in my whole career I’ve never experienced something like that. From Turn 4, it was not raining, but the car was extremely difficult to drive — no grip. I was thinking about just coming in at the end of the lap, but I finished the lap and P2! It’s quite good but it’s a very weird one for everybody on track today, but I’m happy to be on the front row, anyway.”
Leclerc starts alongside Max Verstappen who also admitted he found the session challenging despite securing his 11th pole position of the season.
“It’s been quite hectic out there in qualifying; a lot of laps that we had to do because the gaps were very small,” Verstappen said. “And then of course in Q3 you could see the weather incoming and it looked really bad. Luckily we completed the lap in the best way possible but there was no grip out there because the wind was already changing a lot.”
Verstappen suggested it was the wind gusts up to 50mph that unsettled the cars.
“The wind started to change during the lap so you have no reference,” he said, “so you could see it was costing us quite a lot of lap time.”