Despite securing back-to-back F1 wins at Spa and Monza, Leclerc said earlier this week that he was prepared for “a more difficult weekend” in Singapore and expected the track to be less suited to his Ferrari car than in previous races.
But after storming to pole position around the Marina Bay Street circuit - his third consecutive pole this season - Leclerc attributed Ferrari’s improved pace to the upgrade package the team has introduced for this weekend.
“[I am] very surprised because even though we knew there was a bit more to come after yesterday, we did not expect to challenge either Mercedes or Red Bulls it’s quite a big surprise for the whole team,” said Leclerc.
“It just proves what a good job they’ve done back at the factory [with the upgrade package]. It’s thanks to them that we’re on pole.
“It feels great, but you only enjoy [qualifying] for a short time because then you need to focus on the race and in the end, there are no points awarded for the pole position which is a shame.
“It’s great, it’s very good to see we’re on pole on a track like this that we really expected to struggle, but on the other hand, for me personally I'm just focusing on the race now and of course, I'll be very happy if I'm in the same place tomorrow.”
After finishing over a minute behind Mercedes at the Hungarian Grand Prix in August, Ferrari’s most recent upgrade was introduced to combat the team’s weakness on high-downforce circuits and features a new front and rear wing, floor and diffuser.
Leclerc explained how Ferrari has been working hard to understand its car’s weakness since the Budapest race and feels the improvements made recently have been reflected in its performance on-track.
“I struggle to compare two tracks, it’s quite difficult, but performance-wise it seems that [the upgrade] is working, and I think also data-wise for the engineers it was working too,” Leclerc said.
“I think from Hungary until now, we’ve understood the car better in a way that we know what balance we need to achieve to have the best performance and I think that has shown [with the] results on track.”
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing