On Saturday (July 23) at Circuit Paul Ricard, Charles Leclerc got one step closer to lifting the big gorilla in tomorrow’s French Grand Prix, qualifying his Ferrari on pole position with a little assistance from his teammate Carlos Sainz. Max Verstappen will start alongside him on the front row.
With Sainz due to start from the back of the grid after changing the power unit components that were on fire in Austria, Scuderia Ferrari completely sacrificed the Spaniard’s lap to give Leclerc a slipstream down Paul Ricard’s long back straight.
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“It’s a great lap. I struggled all weekend to put a lap together,” Leclerc told Sky Sports after claiming the 16th pole position of his career and seventh of the season. He continued, “I had the help of Carlos, it was amazing teamwork.”
Verstappen chose instead to focus on Sunday, saying “[Qualifying] was a bit more tricky than we would have hoped . . . overall we have a decent race car. We are quick on the straights, we can use that.”
Qualifying one set the stage for the session: Red Bull’s new low-drag rear wing made Verstappen a monster down the Mistral straight, while the higher-downforce Ferrari made Leclerc stronger in the twisty parts of sectors one and three. At the end of Q1, it was Leclerc ahead of Verstappen by just a tenth of a second
With Europe at the mercy of a record-setting heatwave, all drivers had to take their out laps as slowly as possible so as not to damage the Pirelli tires. Tire management was even a concern over a single lap: pushing too hard in the first sector could give drivers less grip in sector three.
The only yellow flag in the session came in the closing seconds, as William’s Alex Albon spun in the Mistral chicane. Slowing for the yellows affected the final flying laps of Lewis Hamilton among others, although both Albon and Hamilton advanced into Q2.
Daniel Ricciardo and Mick Schumacher had their fastest times deleted for track-limit infringements. While Ricciardo’s second-best lap was good enough to advance, the young German dropped from 11th to 19th in the session, eliminating him from qualifying.
Eliminated in Q1 were Nicolas Latifi, Schumacher, Zhou Guanyu, Lance Stroll, and home driver Pierre Gasly.
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