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Leclerc on pole in France

Leclerc on pole in France

FORMULA ONE: Charles Leclerc will lead title lead Max Verstappen off the line from pole position at the French Grand Prix later today (July 24).

By Michael Lamonato

Sunday 24 July 2022, 09:38AM

Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

Leclerc beat Verstappen by 0.304 seconds in yesterday’s final qualifying session, but he was the beneficiary of Ferrari team tactics, with teammate Carlos Sainz deployed to offer him a slipstream throughout the top-10 shootout.

Sainz wasn’t in contention for pole owing to a back-of-grid penalty for using too many engine parts.

The Spaniard’s intervention was crucial at the end of the first laps, when Leclerc pipped Verstappen by just 0.008 secs, but the Dutchman struggled to improve his time with his second lap, paving the way for the Monegasque to claim an ultimately straightforward pole regardless of his slipstream advantage.

“It’s a great lap,” he said. “I’ve struggled all weekend to put a lap together, and I managed to do put it [together].

“I also had the help of Carlos, and that was amazing teamwork. Without Carlos it would’ve been much more close.

“Thanks to Carlos, and hopefully he can join us in the fight tomorrow.”

Verstappen’s car is running with less downforce, which hampered him on his final qualifying lap, but Verstappen is hopeful that will help him steal the lead in race trim.

“I think we were lacking a bit in qualifying, just general grip,” he said. “It was a bit more tricky than I think I would’ve hoped.

“Overall we still have a decent race car. We are quick on the straights. Hopefully we can use that tomorrow.”

Sergio Perez was third and around 1.5 secs slower than his teammate, but the Mexican lamented that a difficult run of practice sessions left him behind the eight ball.

“It’s been a good recovery,” he said. “I’ve been nowhere the whole weekend, to be honest.

“I’ve been struggling a lot. It’s probably been my worst weekend up to qualifying.”

Lewis Hamilton was fourth in a disappointing return for Mercedes and its upgraded car. The German marque had hoped to be in the mix for the front row and a strong result, but Hamilton ended up 0.893 secs off the pace, and teammate George Russell was more than 0.4 secs further back in sixth.

Between the Silver Arrows qualified McLaren’s Lando Norris, exercising some upgrades of his own and, crucially, outqualifying Fernando Alonso in seventh in a the first strike against Alpine in the battle for fourth in the constructors standings.

Yuki Tsunoda was eighth for AlphaTauri as the final qualifier of the shootout; neither Sainz nor Haas driver Kevin Magnussen set times, with both being sent to the back of the grid with engine penalties.

Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t crack the top 10, missing out by 0.86 secss and being eliminated 11th.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was 12th ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas in a close battle decided by only 0.004 secs.

Sebastian Vettel was knocked out 14th for Aston Martin ahead of Thai driver Alex Albon.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly was eliminated 16th for his home race ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, who complained of traffic on his final flying lap.

Zhou Guanyu was improving his time before a wild moment of oversteer through turn 6, spoiling the time and leaving him 18th.

Mick Schumacher had set a time quick enough to progress to the top 15 but had it deleted for cutting turn 3, leaving him 19th with his next-best time ahead of Williams driver Nicholas Latifi.

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