Charles Leclerc: Emotional Baku Formula 2 pole was for late father

Prema Racing driver and Ferrari Formula 1 junior Charles Leclerc has dedicated his Baku Formula 2 pole position to his father Herve, who died three days ago

Leclerc - the current F2 championship leader - beat ART Grand Prix's Nobuharu Matsushita to first place in qualifying for the feature race in Azerbaijan by 0.568 seconds.

It was 19-year-old rookie Leclerc's fourth successive pole in the category and he described it as "the most emotional" because of the circumstances.

"In terms of gap it's amazing, it's nearly six tenths of a second," he told Autosport.

"I wouldn't say it feels good, because with what happened it doesn't feel good at all but it's emotional and I'm kind of happy for him up there. I'm sure he will be smiling.

"I came to this weekend and I didn't even really know what to expect because obviously my head was a little bit not fully focused on Baku.

"But I'm just very happy to get the pole today.

"[It's been] an emotional weekend until now and I hope tomorrow I will do a good result for him, to make him proud and to thank him for everything he did for me.

"If I'm here today in F2, it's thanks to him.

"He put me in karting and, until three days ago, he was there to help me and give me all the little tips, especially for Monaco [where Herve Leclerc raced in Formula 3, finishing eighth in 1988].

"I just need to thank him more than anything."

Leclerc overturned an early deficit to Matsushita and then went even faster on his final lap in qualifying.

"I believe he helped me today," Leclerc said of his father.

"Yesterday night obviously it was quite hard, I struggled to sleep.

"I was thinking about him and at the same time I felt guilty to not work on the qualifying for today, so it was quite hard to manage.

"But in qualifying everything went right, and I think he was up there helping me to be fully focused on the lap and to not lose concentration."

When asked how he planned to approach Saturday's race - where he will be chasing a third win of 2017 - Leclerc explained that the early phase would be crucial to avoid giving his rivals a tow on Baku's long high-speed sections.

"It definitely will be hard to manage the slipstream and the people behind me, but I think our pace is very good," he said.

"If we manage to make a gap in the first laps, I think there's no reason to not win the race.

"Here it's a little bit of casino, like every city track is, probably even more here with the long straight.

"But it's like this for everybody and I think the pace is good so I will push to try to win.

"I don't have any concern of crashing, I'm not thinking of that."

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