Charles Leclerc secured his seventh pole position of the season as he was surprised by the pace of his Ferrari following a less competitive practice session. Max Verstappen was second fastest and is set to start the French Grand Prix alongside the Monegasque tomorrow.
The French Grand Prix weekend had long been dubbed as a unique chance for Mercedes but even before qualifying it turned out that the Silver Arrows were somewhat further behind than they had expected beforehand. Ferrari and Red Bull on the other hand proved to be there in the free practice sessions, and early on in Q1 quickly secured themselves of a spot in Q2.
Leclerc was fastest and even wondered why his team needed him to do a second run on the same set of tyres. Behind the top 4 the Alpines and McLarens also easily went on, just like the Mercedes duo who finished Q1 in 9th and 10th.
Sebastian Vettel managed to make it through as well thanks to a last minute effort, contrary to his teammate. Albon spun off on his second effort but was lucky to go through thanks to a solid performance in his first outing. The other Williams steered by Nicholas Latifi was again quite a bit behind and ended the session in 20th. Zhou and Schumacher were also eliminated as they had their late efforts deleted for not respecting track limits.
In Q2 it was Verstappen and Perez who initially got the upper hand as Leclerc was on used tyres for his run and ended up 6 tenths down on Verstappen. But that didn't mean a whole lot for Ferrari as Sainz shot atop the timing sheet halfway into the session. The Spaniard distanced Verstappen by 9 tenths. Sadly for him, it was nothing more but a statement as a change in engine components meant he was set to start from the back of the grid anyway.
Norris and Ricciardo sat 5th and 7th after their first runs, seemingly happy with the updates that McLaren brought to their car in France. As they sandwiched Magnussen in 6th, Alonso, Hamilton and Bottas completed the top 10 with 3 minutes left on the clock in Q2.
As the clock ticked, everybody but Sainz and Verstappen returned to the track for a second effort. Ocon was the first to complete his lap, improving from 13th to 7th. As Leclerc improved to second, Alonso jumped to 5th, followed by improvements from the Mercedes and McLaren drivers.
As the session ended, Tsunoda just made it through while Ricciardo, Ocon, Bottas, Vettel and Albon got ousted.
The final and decisive part of qualifying kicked off with the cars bunched up one behind the other. As Verstappen led the queue, Alonso sat in third and was warned that Sainz was out on track as well. The problem was however soon cleared as Sainz let Alonso past in order to stay just ahead of Leclerc for whom he was out to give a tow, helping Leclerc to provisional pole after the first runs, 0.008s quicker than Verstappen.
Perez ended up in third, a good 4 tenths behind his teammate. Russell and Hamilton were tightly matched in fourth and fifth albeit at 1.2s of Leclerc's pace setting lap. Lando Norris had the 6th best time. Sainz returned to the pits without setting a time while Magnussen didn't bother to come out on track.
For the second attempts, Sainz was again out as Ferrari were looking to apply the same strategy, leading to further improvements by Leclerc to secure pole position. Leclerc later went on the radio saying "Grande Carlos", thanking his teammate for the help.
Verstappen failed to improve and ended up 3 tenths down on the Ferrari. Perez also failed to improve while Hamilton shaved off 4 tenths to get into fourth, ahead of Norris and Russell.
Alonso ended up in 7th, 4 tenths down on Russell while Tsunoda was 8th, ahead only of Sainz and Magnussen who didn't record a time in Q3.
|2||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:31.891||1:31.990||1:31.176||14|
|3||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:32.354||1:32.120||1:31.335||20|
|5||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:32.672||1:32.777||1:32.032||14|
|7||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:32.819||1:32.631||1:32.552||17|
|8||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:33.394||1:32.836||1:32.780||20|
|10||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:32.756||1:32.649||9|
|11||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||1:33.404||1:32.922||12|
|12||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:33.346||1:33.048||12|
|13||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:33.034||1:33.052||13|
|14||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:33.285||1:33.276||15|
|15||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||1:33.423||1:33.307||11|
|16||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:33.439||7|
|17||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:33.439||9|
|18||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:33.674||8|
|19||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:33.701||9|
|20||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:33.794||6|