RACE DEBRIEF

    They might not have taken a pole position, as they did in Monaco and Baku – but P5 and P7 on the grid for Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc represented a decent Saturday at the French Grand Prix for Ferrari. But it was Sainz who was by far the happier of the two Scuderia drivers, after Leclerc labelled the majority of his qualifying session “a disaster”.

    Sainz had caused something of a stir by taking a surprise P3 in Free Practice 3, behind eventual polesitter Max Verstappen and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.

    And after going on to take fifth on the grid for the French Grand Prix – the ‘best of the rest’ behind the Red Bull and Mercedes runners – Sainz said he was pleased to have demonstrated how much progress he’d made with the Ferrari SF21, following a pair of frustrating qualifying performances for the Spaniard at the Monaco and Azerbaijan Grands Prix.

    READ MORE: Verstappen beats title rival Hamilton to pole in thrilling French GP qualifying

    “It definitely has [been a good day]”, said Sainz. “I would say more than a good day, it has been a clean day. I’m coming from two or three qualis consecutively, from Monaco and Baku, where I left qualifying always feeling that there was a lot more lap time and a lot more pace to show.

    “Today, a clean quali, nothing happened and I managed to show the pace that I’m getting with this car. So happy, happy for that and happy to see the adaptation is getting better and better and let’s see if we can finish it off tomorrow.”

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    Sainz was pleased to show his progress in the SF21

    Leclerc was less satisfied, meanwhile, having had a difficult route to Q3, finishing the first segment of qualifying a lowly P12 before going P9 in Q2 – but ultimately managing to take seventh on the grid after his second run in Q3.

    “I struggled quite a bit today, so I'm glad with my last lap in Q3 as otherwise because it was a bit of a disaster,” said Leclerc.

    READ MORE: ‘I want the 25 points we lost in Baku’ says Verstappen after storming to French GP pole

    “It was a very, very difficult session on my side,” added Leclerc, who complained over team radio during Q3 that he was “struggling so much” with his front tyres. “I struggled massively driving around our balance limitations which was quite a bit of understeer and I just didn’t drive well today.

    “Carlos did an amazing job though, he put the car on P5, he was consistently quicker than me today, so a good job for the team overall. Especially as I felt it could have been a lot worse on my side – before that last lap in Q3 I was struggling a lot more than what it looked like.”

    Leclerc feels he 'didn't drive well' but French GP qualifying 'could have been worse'

    Leclerc’s pessimism extended to his race predictions, meanwhile, as he told the media: “I feel like it’s going to be a tricky race for us tomorrow but let’s wait and see. It wasn’t too bad, the race pace yesterday, so let’s wait and see tomorrow.”

    READ MORE: Gap to Red Bull in French GP qualifying ‘a lot bigger than we hoped’ says Hamilton

    “Tomorrow, it’s important to have a good clean lap one and a good strategy,” added Sainz. “It’s those two things that have also affected a bit my weekends lately so [if we can] get a clean, good Lap 1 like I used to do in the past, and we are clever with the tyres and the strategy then it should be a good weekend, because the pace I think is there and I’m feeling good with the car.”

    Ferrari head into the French Grand Prix holding P3 in the constructors’ standings, just two points clear of rivals McLaren, with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo having qualified behind both Ferraris in P8 and P10 respectively.