Ferrari’s Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc took pole position at the French Grand Prix on Saturday, while Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull joined his main rival for the title in the first row. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez qualified third and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton completed the second row for Mercedes.

Pole position was Leclerc’s seventh in 12 races and the 16th in the race for the Monegasque, who had his teammate, Spaniard Carlos Sainz, to thank for the strategic aerodynamic towing that made a big difference. Sainz will start at the back of the grid on what is likely to be a hot and possibly windy afternoon at Le Castellet’s Circuit Paul Ricard due to engine penalties.

“It’s been a great lap. I’ve fought all weekend to put a lap together and I managed to put it together,” said Leclerc, who is 38 points behind Verstappen in qualifying.

“But I have to say I’ve also had help from Carlos and that’s been amazing teamwork because without Carlos it would have been a lot closer, so huge thanks to Carlos and I hope he can join us in the fight again. for the win tomorrow.”

Leclerc’s time of one minute 30.872 seconds was 0.304 quicker than Verstappen’s, but the Ferrari will be chased by the two Red Bulls on Sunday as Sainz will be unable to help. Ferrari is looking for its third win in a row, and fifth of the season, after Leclerc triumphed in Austria two weeks ago and Sainz the weekend before.

“I think we lacked a bit in qualifying, just the general grip,” said Verstappen. “It was a bit trickier than I would have expected, but overall I think we still have a decent race car and I hope tomorrow will work in our favour. We’re quick on the straights so we can use that tomorrow.”

Mercedes expected to give Ferrari and Red Bull a run for their money, but in the end the second row was as close as they could get.

McLaren’s Lando Norris divided the Mercedes drivers by taking fifth place on the grid, ahead of Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell. Double world champion Fernando Alonso qualified a strong seventh for Renault-owned Alpine and Yuki Tsunoda was 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 to the top 10.

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