PARIS: Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc received a boost from teammate Carlos Sainz that helped him beat Red Bull’s championship leader Max Verstappen to pole position at the French Grand Prix yesterday.
Spaniard Sainz, who already knew he would be starting at the back today due to engine penalties, ‘towed’ Leclerc in his slipstream at Le Castellet’s smooth-surfaced Circuit Paul Ricard.
The extra speed made a difference.
“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 second overall but 38 points adrift of Verstappen in the standings after 11 of 22 races.
“I also had the help of Carlos and that was amazing teamwork, because without Carlos it would have been much more close,” added the Monegasque.
“So huge thanks to Carlos and I hope that he can join us back in the fight for the win tomorrow.”
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez qualified third while Mercedes’ seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton will start his 300th grand prix from fourth.
The pole was Leclerc’s seventh of the season and 16th of his career.
Every race at Le Castellet since the southern French circuit returned to the calendar in 2018 has been won from pole.
Leclerc’s time of one minute 30.872 seconds was 0.304 quicker than Verstappen but Ferrari will have both Red Bulls chasing one car and Sainz will be unable to provide further assistance on what could be a hot and windy Sunday afternoon.
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.
Mercedes had hoped to take the fight more to the top two teams 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 teammate 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.