Charles Leclerc clinched Ferrari’s first pole position with Paul Ricard since 1990, while rival Max Verstappen will join him on the front row at the 2022 French Grand Prix.
In glorious sunshine at the Circuit Paul Ricard, Leclerc led the first Q1 ahead of Verstappen while Carlos Sainz, who will start at the bottom due to engine penalties, defeated the second Q2 with a stunning lap.
In Q3, Leclerc enjoyed a tow from Sainz on his two flying laps, the Monegasque improving to 1m30.872s to hold off Verstappen by 0.304s. Sergio Perez was third, 0.159s off his teammate, while Lewis Hamilton improved to P4 on his final run.
Lando Norris managed to share the Mercedes in P5 for McLaren as he edged out George Russell in P6.
FP3: Verstappen leads the Ferrari duo in final practice for the French Grand Prix
Red Bull race
Red Bull race
Fernando Alonso starts seventh just behind Norris – both Alpine and McLaren tied on points ahead of the French GP – while Yuki Tsunoda qualified eighth.
Sainz sacrificed his Q3 to take P9 for Ferrari but will start at the bottom thanks to engine penalties with Kevin Magnussen, who made it into Q3 but failed to show up in the session.
Daniel Ricciardo missed Q3 by less than a tenth of a second in P11 while Esteban Ocon qualified for P12 on the road for home Alpine. Valtteri Bottas qualified 13th, behind Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel in 14th and Williams’ Alex Albon in 15th.
Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll (16th and 17th respectively) missed Q2 by 0.06s while Zhou Guanyu oversteered for Alfa Romeo to finish 18th. Mick Schumacher’s brief overstepping of track limits knocked him out of Q1 in 19th, while Nicholas Latifi was 20th.
With penalties for Sainz and Magnussen, those eliminated in Q2 and Q3 will see a boost on the grid for Sunday’s race.
Q1 – Verstappen leaves time on the table as Leclerc sets the early benchmark
With rising temperatures and wind speeds, it was clear that qualifying would be a big challenge for the field in France.
Charles Leclerc took first place with his first flying lap, leaving Max Verstappen in second by 0.164s, and although the Dutchman attempted another lap he didn’t improve – although his second sector was vastly superior to Leclerc’s and maybe an ominous sign was…
Carlos Sainz was more than half a second behind in third place, the Scuderia driver started from the back with engine penalties. Sergio Perez was fourth, 0.627s off top spot for Red Bull, while Lando Norris was the last driver within a second off P1 and McLaren was fifth.
Despite his poor start for new drivetrain components, Kevin Magnussen finished sixth with his lone Q1 run, beating Alpine’s Fernando Alonso – who was enjoying a solid tow from Verstappen – by 0.063s.
Valtteri Bottas was eighth for Alfa Romeo, Mercedes-Lewis Hamilton was ninth and George Russell tenth – both over 1.3 seconds back.
After missing a chance to run soft tires in FP3, Sebastian Vettel impressed for Aston Martin in 11th, while Alpine’s Esteban Ocon stayed in 12th and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in 13th.
Daniel Ricciardo made it to P14 in Q2 despite his second run being scrapped due to track limits; Alex Albon shrugged off his spin at Turn 8 to put Williams in P15.
16th, Pierre Gasly retired in Q1 at home just 0.06s off Albon after setting the exact same time as Lance Stroll, the Aston Martin driver who was frustrated by traffic in P17.
A horrible oversteer on the Mistral Straight put Zhou Guanyu in 18th place, Mick Schumacher was penalized a lap time to send him from P11 to P19 and out of Q1 – with Nicholas Latifi in last and 20th place.
Eliminated: Gasly, Stroll, Zhou, Schumacher, Latifi
Q2 – The defiant Sainz aims for glory with a stunning round
Sainz put on a show with his first run, setting a time of 1m31.081s to hold Verstappen in check by a stunning 0.909s. Perez was a provisional third, just 0.130s off his teammate, while Leclerc was another half a second back in P4. As for Mercedes, neither Russell nor Hamilton were happy with their opening performances of 12th and 9th respectively.
Leclerc improved to 0.135s behind Sainz in his second run, leaving Verstappen in third and Perez in fourth – only the Mexican came out for a second run but failed to improve – as Hamilton rounded out the top five.
Alonso separated the Mercedes, just 0.002s ahead of seventh-placed Russell, while Magnussen made it to P8 for Haas. Norris was ninth and Tsunoda made it into Q3 for the first time since Baku in P10 – Ricciardo missed by less than a tenth of a second.
Ocon didn’t make it into Q3 and finished 12th ahead of Bottas, while Vettel and Albon in 14th and 15th were more than two seconds off the pace. With Sainz starting from the back, all eyes will be on the speedy Spaniard’s progress on Sunday; Magnussen’s blistering run in Q2 will also cause excitement.
Both the Haas and Ferrari had a chance to anger their rivals in Q3 as well…
Eliminated: Ricciardo, Ocon, Bottas, Vettel, Albon
Q3 – Ferrari team for the first Paul Ricard pole since 1990
Ferrari’s game plan for Q3 was clear; They appeared one after the other for Sainz to drag Leclerc through the circuit’s long straights, with the Monegasque driver setting a provisional pole lap of 1m31.209s. Verstappen was just 0.008s down – but he had no tow on his way.
Perez was provisional third, 0.431s off P3, while the Mercedes were on course for P4 and P5 with Russell ahead of Hamilton – both on used tires for their first runs.
The usual intermission gave fans time to fan themselves in the unrelenting heat while Perez broke the silence to lead a wagon train to the final heats. Ferrari continued their team game, Sainz to tow Leclerc for heat two; Verstappen appeared behind Leclerc and not Perez on his second pole attempt.
Leclerc had the edge and turned it into a gap, improving to 1m30.872s – thanking his teammate Sainz over the radio – and holding off Verstappen by 0.304s despite the Dutchman improving. Perez also improved but ended up 0.159s behind his teammate as he prepares to start on the second row.
Hamilton fitted a new set of softs and improved to P4, although he ended up falling over four tenths adrift of Perez, while McLaren’s Norris managed to share the Mercedes drivers in fifth while Russell was sixth. Alonso, in P7, will start behind Norris on Sunday, his Alpine team is currently level on points with McLaren while Tsunoda managed P8 for AlphaTauri.
Sainz’s sacrifice put him ninth in Q3 but he’s gearing up for a recovery mission on Sunday, along with Magnussen – who didn’t attempt a lap in Q3. Walk tete-a-tete Leclerc and Verstappen will be in the front row tomorrow.
French GP qualifier 2022: Leclerc beats championship rival Verstappen to pole position
“It was a great lap. I struggled all weekend to get a lap in and I did it, but I have to say I also had the help of Carlos and that was amazing teamwork because without Carlos it would have been a lot closer, so a big thank you to Carlos and I hope he can fight for victory with us again tomorrow” – Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
The French Grand Prix starts at 15:00 local time – that is 13:00 UTC – with Leclerc and Verstappen again poised to stand out on the front row while Sainz will try to get back through the field in the 53-lap encounter to climb.