RACE DEBRIEF

    Carlos Sainz put in a strong showing in Free Practice 2 for the French Grand Prix, topping the timesheets by a tenth from team mate Charles Leclerc. But Sainz’s strong one-lap pace in France will count for nought, as he strongly hinted that he would start Sunday’s race at the back of the grid.

    The announcement of a new control electronics unit for Sainz on Friday, following his fiery end to the Austrian Grand Prix two weeks ago, came with a 10-place grid drop for the Spaniard that automatically took him out of the running for pole position on Saturday.

    But speaking after heading FP2 at a baking-hot Paul Ricard track, Sainz strongly hinted that the 10-place drop was unlikely to be the end of his penalties this weekend, with more power unit changes seemingly coming his way.

    FP2: Sainz leads Ferrari team mate Leclerc by 0.1s in second French GP practice session

    “It was definitely a positive Friday,” said Sainz. “I didn’t do many laps on the short run on low fuel, but every lap that I did was very competitive, which shows the steps that we’re taking and the direction we’re taking is going in the right direction. I’m focusing more in the long run because I’m not going to be in that fight for pole position given the amount of penalties [I have].”

    When it was put to Sainz that only one penalty had been made public, the British Grand Prix race winner replied sheepishly: “We will see. I mean I took 10, so you can expect what’s coming next.”

    Carlos Sainz hints at more penalties to come after setting Friday's fastest lap

    With a back-of-the-grid start likely, then, Sainz was asked how optimistic he felt about his chances for passing rival cars on Sunday.

    “I tried a couple of moments with other cars to overtake because I know I’m going to need to a lot, and I must say that it was a bit trickier than expected,” said Sainz. “Mainly because there’s a tail-wind on the back straight and with this tail-wind it looks like the slipstream and DRS effect is a bit low.

    “But I don’t have any other choice; I need to find ways to overtake and the best medicine for that is just to be a bit quicker come Sunday than what we are. Let’s see when everyone runs the engine modes on Sunday if we have the top speed to overtake. I hope we do because I’m going to need to make up a lot of places!”

    READ MORE: ‘It’s not spectacular’ – Mercedes say they’re ‘further off the pace than we hoped’ after Friday in France

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    Leclerc led the opening practice session in France

    Team mate Leclerc, meanwhile, headed FP1 before taking second place in FP2 – with the winner from the Red Bull Ring giving his assessment of Ferrari’s pace at Paul Ricard, after Ferrari (thanks to Sainz’s time) wound up over half a second clear of rivals Red Bull could manage on Friday afternoon.

    “It was a good Friday. I mean, we still have to work on the car a little bit for tomorrow. It’s very difficult to understand because it felt like Red Bull is doing something different to us on Friday. But focusing on ourselves, the feeling is good. We just need to put everything together, and the pace is in the car.”

    Leclerc currently sits 38 points adrift of Max Verstappen in the drivers’ standings, with Ferrari 56 points off Red Bull in the constructors’.