RACE DEBRIEF

    French Grand Prix pole-sitter Charles Leclerc was thrilled with Ferrari’s expertly choreographed Q3 that saw Carlos Sainz give him a crucial slipstream – and while the Spaniard wasn’t thrilled by the fact that he will start at the back on Sunday, he was clearly fired up to fight through the field.

    On Saturday, Leclerc took his 16th career pole position, his sixth of the season, and first in France – Ferrari’s first at Paul Ricard since 1990 – with Sainz having sacrificed Q3 to tow his team mate knowing he will start from the back of the grid on Sunday with engine penalties.

    “Well I mean it’s quite tricky to get it exactly right,” said Leclerc of the tow after qualifying. “I think the first lap, we were a bit too close in [Turns] 8, 9, so maybe I lost a little bit there and just drove in not the best way possible. In the second lap we adapted that, and it was better, and that was the lap. We did a good job, communication-wise, and Carlos helping me was amazing.

    READ MORE: Sainz tows Leclerc to first French Grand Prix pole as Verstappen qualifies second

    “It’s all in the trust at the end, because I mean, I knew that Carlos was going to eventually get out of the way at one point; I just didn’t know when. But yes, Carlos judged it perfectly and got out of the way at the right moment,” he explained before being asked whether Ferrari had practised towing Leclerc in prior sessions.

    “No, we didn’t practise before Q3, actually,” replied Leclerc, “so we did quite a good job between the first run of Q3 and the second run of Q3, we did a good step in the right direction.”

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    Leclerc took his 16th career pole in France

    Sainz ended up qualifying ninth but will share the back row with Kevin Magnussen, both the Haas and Ferrari drivers having taken engine penalties ahead of Sunday’s French Grand Prix. The Spaniard said he “nailed” giving Leclerc the tow as he looked forward to Sunday’s race.

    AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from final practice for the French Grand Prix

    “Yes, it was the plan the whole way through the weekend. Unfortunately, the penalty comes at the stretch of the season when I’m feeling at the best with the car. I think you’ve seen all weekend, very fast in every session at every point, but obviously because of the penalty, the target was to get to Q3 and give the tow to Charles, which I think I did pretty well – I think it was pretty nailed – and I’m happy for the team.

    “I know how to give a good tow, I mean, I know what I would need, because I know exactly where I would need… Charles to give me a tow, so I just gave him what I think was the best.”

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    Sainz finished ninth in qualifying but will start at the back with new PU components

    And the British GP winner, who this weekend aced Q2 and topped FP2, was brimming with confidence when asked whether he had the pace to recover from the back in the French Grand Prix.

    “I mean, I think this weekend I’m probably one of the fastest guys on track so we should be able to make it through the field. It will all depend on how the hard tyre feels versus the medium, how difficult it is to follow and overtake with these front tyres, how difficult it is with the overheating following other cars.

    “But I’m going to give it the best shot and I’m feeling confident with the car, so it’s a good weekend to try and do a good recovery,” concluded Sainz.

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