Charles Leclerc scorched into a sizzling pole position with a commanding lap in Saturday’s sun-baked qualifying session at the French Grand Prix as the Ferrari driver beat series leader and Red Bull world champion Max Verstappen by 0.304 seconds. The 24-year-old Monegasque driver clocked a best lap of one minute and 30.872 seconds to claim his seventh pole this year and finish 16th of his career in front of a sold-out crowd at the Paul Ricard circuit.
Leclerc was assisted by Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz, giving him a decisive slip-streaming ‘toe’ on the long back.
“Grande Carlos!” Leclerc said in his slow lap.
The Spaniard, very fast throughout practice, will start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid after taking penalties for new engine components.
Verstappen was second behind Leclerc ahead of Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez, seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton was fourth for Mercedes, ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and George Russell in second Mercedes.
“It was a great lap,” said Leclerc, who is bidding to complete a hat-trick of Ferrari wins and shorten Verstappen’s 38-point lead in the title race. “But I have to thank Carlos for his help – and I hope he can go ahead and challenge him in the race.”
Verstappen said he felt his car lacked grip in hot and windy conditions. “It was a little more difficult than I expected, but we have a good race car and great speed on the straights. So, we’ll see tomorrow, but Ferrari are obviously very fast again.”
Perez said he was happy to find some sort of backlash after the struggle in recent weeks. “It’s been a good recovery and the goal is to recover some more and beat those red cars. They looked strong today.”
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso was seventh for Alpine ahead of Alp Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, with both Sainz and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen opting not to clock laps in Q3 due to their grid penalties.
After getting new engine parts they will start together from back row.
In the sweltering heat, with an air temperature of 33 degrees and the track at 56, local hope Pierre Gasly set the pace early in Q1, before Leclerc topped out in 1:31.727, six-tenths faster than Perez. , who finished second with his opening lap.
Verstappen’s first attempt took him tenth to second behind Ferrari, while Mercedes men were caught when Alex Albon spun in his Williams, causing problems for both drivers.
After a final flurry, it was ahead of Leclerc, Verstappen and Sainz Perez in the top and eliminations for Lucky Gasly in his Alfa Tauri, Lance Stroll in his Aston Martin, Guanue Zhou of Alfa Romeo, Mick Schumacher of Haas and Nicolas Lucktifi in Were. Second Williams.
Schumacher briefly finished 10th with a late lap, which was discarded for exceeding the limit of the track. His death was a relief for Albon who moved up to second place in 15th place.
In Q2, Hamilton, Norris and Perez enjoyed brief moments at the top before Verstappen took command in 1:31.990 and held on until Sainz delivered an almighty lap.
The Spaniard clocked 1:31.081 on a new set of tyres, leaving Verstappen nine-tenth behind, a surprising gain and performance. In contrast, Mercedes appeared to falter until the last minute.
Late efforts from both Hamilton and Russell enabled them to progress to the ‘Top Ten Shootout’.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, Esteban Ocon in the second alpine, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, Aston Martin’s two-time champion Sebastian Vettel and Albon were out.
The Q3 session began with Perez setting an early time, which was swiftly beaten by Leclerc, with Monegasque taking advantage of a tow from Sainz to slipstream him straight back and head to the top.
Verstappen couldn’t beat it and settled for second place 0.008 seconds behind, a difference that indicates better Red Bull pace. Perez was third ahead of Russell and Hamilton, a time Sainz didn’t see.
For Leclerc’s second run, Ferrari repeated their strategy with Sainz on used tires and a rapidly opening field assisting him to grab the pole.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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