F1 French Grand Prix: Leclerc flies over qualifying, Gasly crashes

F1 French Grand Prix: Leclerc flies over qualifying, Gasly crashes

The Monegasque largely dominated the qualification at Le Castellet, where he will start ahead of the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez on Sunday. Ocon and Gasly will start further on the grid.

 

Charles Leclerc largely dominated the competition. ERIC GAILLARD / REUTERS

Charles Leclerc alone in the world. Despite a fright at turn 12, the Monegasque walked on the overheated asphalt of Le Castellet (track temperature above 55°C) to take pole position in the Grand Prix de France (his 16th career). The only driver under 1’31” (1’30”872), the Monegasque has largely benefited from the suction of his teammate Carlos Sainz, condemned to the back of the grid due to a penalty and who turned into the perfect teammate. Result, Max Verstappen (Red Bull), who had made a strong impression at the start of the afternoon during free practice 3, was relegated to more than three tenths. To the delight of the main stand, looking like a tifosi from “Carletto”.

“Without Carlos, it would have been much tighter, agreed the Ferrari driver to the applause of the public. He gave me an exceptional aspiration.” It was enough to see the frank embrace of the two men in the mixed zone to understand the precious service rendered by the Spaniard to the Monegasque. Gone are the tensions on the track, like during the sprint race in Austria? “I hope he can join us up front tomorrow,” added Leclerc. Because this Sunday (3 p.m.), the poleman will find himself this time one against two, since Sergio Perez (3rd) will start just behind him, in the second row to put the pressure on entry and help his world champion teammate.

On the podium in the last three races, Lewis Hamilton continues to find rhythm at the wheel of his Mercedes, “best of the rest” with the fourth fastest time (4 tenths behind Perez!), ahead of his compatriots Lando Norris and George Russell. “One way or another, we can’t do better in any case, they are not within our reach,” agreed in the mixed zone the seven-time world champion.

The French in (great) difficulty

Successful in recent weeks, Esteban Ocon missed the boat this Saturday. Celebrated in every turn like his partner Fernando Alonso (7th), the Frenchman signed a decisive qualification and concluded in 12th position. The Alpine driver was overtaken by a Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) who will have sailed all weekend around the 10th time. More surprisingly, the 13th position of Valtteri Bottas, symbol of a missed qualification for Alfa Romeo (Guanyu Zhou signed the 18th time). 14th, Sebastian Vettel continues to do with the means at hand at the wheel of an Aston Martin far from the top of the plateau. “We will have to find solutions to perform in qualifying,” urged the quadruple world champion to his garage.

Eliminated in Q1 (16th time), Pierre Gasly remains plagued by major difficulties at the wheel of his AlphaTauri. Yet less off the hook during free practice, the Norman, generally at ease in the timed exercise, was not up to the cheers of his public. The reasons for this change of gear from practice to qualifying? He himself does not know: “We were comfortable in the top 10 and since this morning we have had a lot of difficulties and we really don’t know why, pestered the person concerned at the microphone of Canal +. We will have to analyze but we are inevitably very disappointed. We will have to try to go back up tomorrow but it will be hard, we are starting from afar.

Behind him, the AlphaTauri driver will find the Canadian Lance Stroll, still without rhythm at the wheel of his Aston Martin. 19th on the grid, Mick Schumacher thought he had found the key to get into Q2 but his reference time was canceled for exceeding the limits at turn 3.

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