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Formula 1

Leclerc makes most of Sainz tow to claim French GP pole

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc made use of a slipstream from his team-mate Carlos Sainz to take pole position for F1’s French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard.

Sainz, who was always destined to start from the back of the grid due to a spate of engine penalties, provided a tow to Leclerc on both of the Monegasque’s flying laps in Q3, punching a hole through the air coming out of the Mistral chicane and then letting Leclerc through out of Signes.

The first time around, it enabled Leclerc to lap 0.008s quicker than Max Verstappen, but a much more assertive second lap – a 1m30.872s – put him three tenths clear of the Dutchman.

“Without Carlos it would’ve been much more close, huge thanks to Carlos,” Leclerc acknowledged afterwards.

Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez was never quite in the mix for pole but managed to score a comfortable third, ahead of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

The other Mercedes of George Russell was actually marginally quicker on the first run, but was outpaced by nearly four tenths by Hamilton the second time by – and slipped down to sixth, also behind the McLaren of Lando Norris.

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda completed the top eight as the last two drivers to set a time in Q3.

Daniel Ricciardo trailed McLaren team-mate Norris by just a tenth and a half, but this was still the difference between making Q3 and not – with the Aussie settling for 11th, which turns into ninth on the grid.

Local driver Esteban Ocon was four tenths off Alonso in Q2 and will start 10th, followed by Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and Williams’s Alexander Albon.

Pierre Gasly suffered an ignominious Q1 exit on home soil in the upgraded AlphaTauri, reporting a problem on the rear left late on.

He did at least get what will be 14th place on the grid over Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, who had set an identical laptime but did so later – suffering a seventh consecutive Q1 exit.

A costly slide prevented Alfa Romeo rookie Guanyu Zhou from improving late on and consigned him to 16th, ahead of Mick Schumacher (Haas) – who was shocked to have a Q2-worthy lap deleted for seemingly cutting the inside of Turn 3 – and Nicholas Latifi (Williams).

It wasn’t just Sainz but also Haas driver Kevin Magnussen who was resigned to a back-of-the-grid start due to engine penalties, and Magnussen likewise made it to Q3, where he was an unsurprising no-show.

Qualifying Results

Pos Name Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m31.727s 1m31.216s 1m30.872s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1m31.891s 1m31.99s 1m31.176s
3 Sergio Pérez Red Bull 1m32.354s 1m32.12s 1m31.335s
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m33.041s 1m32.274s 1m31.765s
5 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1m32.672s 1m32.777s 1m32.032s
6 George Russell Mercedes 1m33.109s 1m32.633s 1m32.131s
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1m32.819s 1m32.631s 1m32.552s
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Red Bull 1m33.394s 1m32.836s 1m32.78s
9 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1m32.297s 1m31.081s
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m32.756s 1m32.649s
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1m33.404s 1m32.922s
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1m33.346s 1m33.048s
13 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m33.034s 1m33.052s
14 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1m33.285s 1m33.276s
15 Alex Albon Williams-Mercedes 1m33.423s 1m33.307s
16 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Red Bull 1m33.439s
17 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1m33.439s
18 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m33.674s
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1m33.701s
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1m33.794s
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