Ferrari junior Charles Leclerc continued his perfect pole position record in Formula 2 by topping qualifying at the Red Bull Ring in Austria on Saturday, extending his championship lead in the process.
2016 GP3 champion Leclerc stepped up to F2 – rebranded after operating as GP2 since 2005 – for 2017 and has immediately impressed in the series, enjoying a 42-point lead in the drivers’ championship heading into this weekend’s round in Austria.
Leclerc took his fifth pole in five races in Saturday’s qualifying session for Prema Racing, turning in a fastest lap of 1:13.396 to finish three-tenths of a second clear at the head of the field, as well as picking up two bonus points.
Leclerc finished ahead of MP Motorsport’s Sergio Sette Camara in P2, the Brazilian still doing enough to secure his first front row start in F2 despite spinning out on his final lap.
Leclerc’s Prema teammate and fellow Ferrari junior Antonio Fuoco took third, while Alexander Albon qualified fourth upon his return from a collarbone injury.
Oliver Rowland’s hopes of cutting the gap to Leclerc in the championship were dealt a blow as he could only qualify fifth, with Honda youngster Nobuharu Matsushita taking P6.
McLaren junior Nyck de Vries was seventh ahead of Luca Ghiotto and Nicholas Latifi while Norman Nato completed the top 10.
McLaren is almost back on schedule with its 2018 Formula 1 car development after losing two weeks due to a delay in deciding on its engine supplier, according to racing director Eric Boullier.
McLaren confirmed back in September it would be cutting ties with Honda at the end of the year after three difficult seasons, favoring a switch to Renault power units.
The decision was not taken lightly by McLaren, causing it to lose two weeks in the development of next year’s car, but Boullier confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the team is almost back on-track.
“Maybe we made the decision to change the engine manufacturer two weeks too late for our schedule, but these two weeks have almost been recovered,” Boullier said.
“Any big decisions are always difficult to take. The concept of McLaren winning with Honda was a dream for everybody, yes – it was a beautiful story.
“Today we have huge respect for them and we definitely don’t divorce with fights and screams and finger pointing. We are all very professional – and in the end it was a business decision, which they understand.
“There is a sadness that it didn’t work out like we wanted. McLaren-Honda in terms of brands was a good fit – in terms of results it didn’t work.
“That’s what it is in the end. Now we have to see that we get back to competitiveness – back to the top!”