Leclerc denies Ferrari intended 'a big mess' in qualifying
Charles Leclerc is celebrating his fourth pole position of the 2019 season, but he admits that qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix ended up being a very messy affair in Monza.
With cars jockeying for position at the start of their final run of the day, almost all of them ended up failing to cross the line in time.
It meant that Leclerc's earlier provisional pole lap of 1:19.307s was good enough to carry the day and keep him ahead of Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to start Sunday's race from the front.
"It feels unbelievable," he said after delighting the home fans. "Today to see so many people is absolutely amazing. I'm happy with pole.
"But it's a shame at the end it was a big mess," he admitted. "I hoped our last lap was enough with what happened for the pole.
“There was also Seb that was capable of having the pole position. We obviously didn’t want to sacrifice one car for the pole with the other."
The first time time around Leclerc had benefitted from a 'tow' from his team mate Sebastian Vettel. On the final lap the track positions were meant to be reversed to give Vettel a shot at going top.
"The plan was that in the first run Seb was giving me the tow and in the second run I would give him the tow,” Leclerc confirmed.
“I actually went out of the box in front of him and then there was the huge mess after turn 1 and 2," he explained. "The McLaren and the Renault stopped in the middle of the track, and we had nowhere to go.
“Seb overtook me there with the mess because obviously we were quite aware that it was quite tight on time. I stayed basically behind Seb until the last straight.
"I heard on the radio ‘You can overtake Seb’, so I overtook him. But then I had no time for me to start the lap either," he sighed. “It was a shame but I don’t think I could have done much more."
He denied that the mess had been in anyway an intentional plan by Ferrari to hold everyone up and allow his own earlier lap time to clinch pole.
“It was definitely not intentional from our side," he stated emphatically.
"Most of the drivers behind wanted to pass but didn’t have the opportunity," he said. "There were two cars side-by-side going at 20kph, and we couldn’t pass them.
"I definitely think that situations like what happened after the second corner shouldn’t happen," he agreed. "These situations have made a big mess towards the end and that’s why some cars didn’t make it to start their laps.”
Leclerc said that having clinched pole again, he now hopes he can go on to pick up his second career F1 win on Sunday - just seven days after his first in Belgium.
"The pace was quite good actually during the race simulations in FP2 so it's looking positive - better than in Spa," he said. "So let's hope for a good race tomorrow."