RACE DEBRIEF

    He may not have been able to touch the Mercedes in French Grand Prix qualifying, but Charles Leclerc thinks Ferrari’s straight-line speed could yet give them shot at victory at Paul Ricard on Sunday.

    Leclerc put his SF90 third on the grid, but the gap to polesitter Lewis Hamilton was close to seven-tenths of a second. Nevertheless, if he gets off the line well at the start tomorrow, the Monegasque believes Mercedes could yet be defeated.

    “A good start could help us overtake them on the run to the first corner, because it’s quite a long straight before the first corner,” said Leclerc, after out-qualifying puzzled team mate Sebastian Vettel by four places.

    “We are quite strong on the straights, they [Mercedes] are quite strong in the corners. So hopefully I manage to do a good start and sneak in front of the Mercedes and keep them behind.”

    Charles Leclerc: 'Mercedes were just out of reach'

    Despite being unable to challenge for the front row, Leclerc was satisfied with his personal showing, qualifying being an area he has been working to improve on after disappointing showings at recent Grands Prix.

    “I’m pretty happy today with my own performance,” he said, after out-qualifying Vettel for the first time since his pole in Bahrain. “I think the main focus points after Canada, after the last few races, was qualifying – to have the right car for Q3.

    “I focused quite a lot on that this weekend and I think we managed it pretty well - to have the right balance for Q3. So I’m very happy on that, and we’ll see tomorrow. I’ll give it everything and hopefully we can challenge the Mercedes a little more.”

    If Leclerc needed any encouragement for Sunday's race, he'd have got it in Saturday's F2 feature race, where eventual race winner Nyck de Vries shot from fourth on the grid to first at Turn 1...