At the Italian circuit, drivers traditionally look for tow in qualifying on the straights while trying to create an optimal gap so the car in front doesn’t interfere with their cornering.
This has sometimes created controversial situations, most notably in 2019 when cars left the pits too late for their final runs in Q3, all resetting and several drivers failing to take the checkered flag to start their laps.
Leclerc believes that despite the reduced slipstream effect, similar situations will arise again this year as tow is still valuable.
“I think for the qualifier it will probably be the same because even if it’s less worth it, it’s still worth it,” he said when asked about slipstreaming by Motorsport.com.
“I mean, the drivers will always try the last bit in qualifying, so I think it will always be more difficult in qualifying than in the race.
“I think with these cars we can get a little closer at medium and high speeds, but of course the towing is worth a little less on the straights too.
“However, I think it will depend heavily on whether there is a wagon train with DRS. In this situation it will be very, very difficult to overtake. If not, then I think it should be pretty easy.”
Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz also expects drama in qualifying.
“I think towing will always be an issue at Monza,” said the Spaniard when asked by Motorsport.com about previous qualifying controversies.
“But I think it’s part of the show, part of the track nature, part of the qualifying tactics that you have at Monza.
“Even though people say 2019 was a mess and a show I disagree, I think it’s part of racing. And there are just a lot of people who got it wrong, or there are like me who got it right!
“I would just say that’s part of Monza’s tactics and strategy. And I think part of the beauty of coming here is that you have very strange qualifications.
“And I think it’s good to see even if sometimes you don’t get a round. I think this year will be similar again because the cars are still very prone to slipstreaming and you want to tow them away.”
Cars take position on the out-lap of a qualifying run in 2021.
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
GPDA chairman George Russell conceded that the subject of qualifying could come up at Friday night’s drivers’ briefing.
“It’s always going to be a challenge on certain routes,” said the Mercedes driver. “This because of the tow of the track, I’m just trying to get a gap on a small track. No doubt we will discuss it, we will try to find a good compromise.
“But at the end of the day, when we’re all on the track, no one wants to be first. If you follow the delta time, the pit lane activity probably becomes the most dangerous point because everyone waits as long as possible.
“There will always be a problem here.
Russell acknowledged that in the past it has paid off not to get too close to the car in front and lose downforce as a result, but until they drive close together in practice drivers won’t know how the 2022 aero package will affect them will affect the persecution around Monza.
“That’s the thing. It goes both ways,” he said. “When there is less gain you might as well do your lap alone and I think historically there have been times when a driver has done a lap alone and been surprised by his performance.
“We can all measure the straight-line speed gains we make when we’re in the slipstream, but it’s harder to say exactly I’ve lost half a tenth or a tenth or nothing through a corner.
“Personally, I think it’s not going to be the be-all and end-all. And there is a lot more to lose by chasing the perfect tow than there is to gain.”