Friday, March 24, 2023

French GP: Leclerc on pole ahead of Verstappen

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc powered to pole position for the French Grand Prix on Saturday with Red Bull’s Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen joining his main title rival on the front row.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez qualified third with seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton completing the second row for Mercedes.
The pole was Leclerc’s seventh in 12 races, 16th of the Monegasque’s career, and he had Spanish team mate Carlos Sainz to thank for giving him a strategic aerodynamic tow that made a big difference.
Sainz will start at the back of the grid, on what is likely to be a hot and possibly windy Sunday afternoon at Le Castellet’s Circuit Paul Ricard, due to engine penalties.
“It was a great lap. I’ve struggled all weekend to put a lap together and I managed to put it,” said Leclerc, who is 38 points adrift of Verstappen in the standings.
“But I have to say I also had the help of Carlos and that was amazing teamwork, because without Carlos it would have been much more close, so huge thanks to Carlos and I hope that he can join us back in the fight for the win tomorrow.
Leclerc’s time of one minute 30.872 seconds was 0.304 quicker than Verstappen’s best but Ferrari will have both Red Bulls chasing on Sunday with Sainz unable to lend any assistance.
Ferrari are seeking their third win in a row, and fifth of the season, after Leclerc triumphed in Austria two weeks ago and Sainz the weekend before that.
“I think we were lacking a bit in qualifying, just general grip,” said Verstappen. “It was a bit more tricky than I think I would have hoped but overall I think we still have a decent race car and hopefully tomorrow will come into our favour. We’re quick on the straights so we can use that tomorrow.”
Mercedes had hoped to take the fight more to Ferrari and Red Bull but in the end the second row was the closest they could manage.
McLaren’s Lando Norris split the Mercedes drivers by taking fifth place on the grid, ahead of Hamilton’s team mate George Russell.
Double world champion Fernando Alonso qualified a strong seventh for Renault-owned Alpine with Yuki Tsunoda eighth for AlphaTauri.
Sainz and Ferrari-powered Haas driver Kevin Magnussen qualified ninth and 10th but both will drop to the back, promoting McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon into the top 10.


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