What the teams said - Qualifying in France

Special Contributor

Becky Hart
LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 19: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 and

Red Bull

Verstappen threw down the gauntlet in FP3 with a hugely impressive lap, and looked the man to beat – especially on the soft tyre. And so it proved, with the Dutchman nailing his final effort in Q3 to grab pole by a healthy margin from his rivals. He was ably backed up by his team mate in fourth, and with two cars at the sharp end of the race, Red Bull are in a great position to extend their lead in the championship.

Max Verstappen, 1st, 1:29.990

“To be able to put it on pole here, on a track that has not been our favourite in terms of performance, is very promising and a big boost for the Team. We really did not expect it so I am of course very happy. Everything has been working really well all weekend and from today even compared to yesterday we made a good improvement through hard work and maximising set up. I was confident after FP3 but you never really know where you are or what everyone else will bring in qualifying, so we should be very happy with this performance so far. There is a long run to Turn 1 so we have to get a good start tomorrow and for sure they will be very close but our long run pace in FP2 looked good so I expect another tight battle.”

Sergio Perez, 4th, 1:30.445

“It wasn’t an ideal qualifying as I think locking out the front row was possible but unfortunately I made a mistake on my final Q3 run which cost me quite a bit of lap time. We were going in the right direction and I was feeling comfortable with the car but I just ran wide over the kerbs at Turn 12 and the lap was gone. But tomorrow is when it matters and we have better race pace than in qualifying so we should really be in the mix. It will be very close with Mercedes so I will be applying the pressure from the very first lap. My starts have been good so the plan is to get a couple of positions off the line and manage the race from there to try and bring home a 1-2 for the Team. I think the race will come down to tyre management so hopefully we can outperform them in that area but either way it’s going to be very entertaining for the fans and now I’m just looking forward to tomorrow!”

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“It was another great performance from Max today and it’s fantastic to see him take our first pole position in France. Together we’ve been improving the car throughout the weekend and to have Checo up there as well, building on the momentum from his Baku victory, is a great Team performance. Starting from pole certainly gives us confidence but we’re expecting Mercedes to be very competitive tomorrow. This circuit has been such a stronghold for them over recent years so it will be important to see if we can beat them here. There’s a lot at stake and a long way to go in this championship but the whole Team is working incredibly well, putting in long hours, and coming together as a unit to put the pressure on Mercedes which is phenomenal to see. Having two cars starting at the front also gives us different strategic options in the race and so it will be important for us to do all the basics and get clean starts, execute quick pitstops and a good strategy.”

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 19: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 19, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)


When Verstappen lapped seven tenths of a second faster than the Silver Arrows in FP3, they knew they were up against it today. Some car tweaks for Hamilton between sessions paid dividends as he made up time on his rival, but it wasn’t enough. Still, from where they have been, second and third on the grid is no mean feat and puts them in a good position for the race – especially since they won’t have to use the soft compound tyre, which has caused them difficulties so far this weekend.

Lewis Hamilton, 2nd, 1:30.248

"It's great to see the fans here and it warms my heart to see people coming together finally after this difficult period for us all. It's been a really hard weekend trying to get the car into a happy place and you wouldn't believe all of the changes I've made since FP1. Congratulations to Max, he did a great job today.

"On long run pace I think the Red Bulls were a tenth or two quicker than us in FP2 but my car is in a much different place now so I'm just going to stay hopeful and do everything that I can tomorrow. Obviously in second you've got a fighting chance down to Turn 1 and there's going to be some interesting strategy calls tomorrow. Maybe it'll rain so we'll potentially get to see the rain masters do their thing! We're loving the battle so we're just going to keep pushing, keep fighting, and giving it everything."

Valtteri Bottas, 3rd, 1:30.376

"It's been a strong weekend, for sure a lot better than a couple weeks ago and I was hoping to fight for the pole. The last run in Q3 felt good so I didn't feel like there was much more lap time to make up, I think Red Bull had the edge in a straight line here which made the difference.

"We are definitely fighting for the win tomorrow, we're between the two Red Bulls with two cars against one so on strategy, we can be smart and bring the challenge to them. Nothing is going to come easy but we're ready for the challenge tomorrow."

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"That was an exciting qualifying session and a solid performance to put our cars P2 and P3, with just a tenth of a second between them, but we weren't quick enough to claim pole position today. We made a good step with Lewis's car from yesterday, and he felt much more comfortable with the balance once he was running in qualifying; and Valtteri has bounced back strongly from a tough weekend in Baku. Like the cars around us, we will start the race on the Medium tyre, which will give us the opportunity to race hard tomorrow and hopefully put pressure on Max. The long runs yesterday looked closely matched, so I'm sure we're in for a real fight all the way to the chequered flag."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"There's quite a gap to pole and our laps were pretty good in the end so second and third is a fair result for us. Valtteri continued build through the day from the solid baseline he'd established yesterday and Lewis managed to recover some confidence in the car after a difficult Friday; quite a bit of work has gone into fine tuning the balance and it doesn't feel like there was much more to come.

"The early parts of the session were a bit messy as we kept getting caught in a bunch of cars on the out-lap and struggled to get the tyres in the right window. By the end we had good track position and we looked pretty close to Max for the first half of the lap. Our main issue seems to be a loss on the straight from turn 9 down to turn 11 and by sector three we're no longer able to gain anything back in the corners. We've seen many times this year that our race pace is better than our qualifying and we've shown that we can win races from behind so we're still optimistic that we're playing for the win tomorrow."

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 19: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 on track during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 19, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)


It was a mixed bag for Ferrari, who saw Sainz come to the fore and narrowly miss out on the second row today as he continues to grow in confidence. But Leclerc, who is normally so strong over one lap, struggled throughout final practice and qualifying. Unhappy with the balance of his car, he managed to scrape up to seventh having looked like exiting in Q1 at one stage.

Charles Leclerc, 7th, 1:30.987

"A tricky qualifying from my side. I didn’t do a good job of driving around the balance limitation of my car, which was on the front for me today. I will work to understand how I can adapt my driving style and manage this better in the race, although I think that we will feel it less tomorrow. Overall, 5th and 7th place are good results for the team and in line with our expectations. Congratulations to everyone and to Carlos who did a good job today. The race pace wasn’t too bad yesterday. There is definitely potential to fight for good positions in the race, and it will come down to us putting it all together".

Carlos Sainz, 5th, 1:30.840

"Not a bad day for the team. After a couple of eventful Saturdays, it’s good to have a clean quali like today. We managed to extract everything out of the car and show the progress we have made at this type of track. From my side, I continue to adapt and learn from the different conditions and corners, and today I felt at home with the car no matter what compound I was on. We are in a good position for the race tomorrow and we’ll try to maximize every opportunity. Yesterday our race pace was not bad, but I expect a tight battle with our main competitors. A clean first lap and a good strategy will be essential to leave France with a good result".

Laurent Mekies, Racing Director

"All in all, it was a satisfactory qualifying. We came here knowing that the hierarchy would be different to that seen at the two unusual tracks in Monaco and Baku and that the characteristics of the Paul Ricard circuit would not be ideally suited to our SF21. But once again, we were able to demonstrate that we are the best of those teams directly behind the two that are fighting for the championship. Furthermore, as in the three previous qualifying sessions, we got both our cars ahead of our direct rivals. Carlos is having a great weekend, showing that he is making progress, and his qualifying performance was really good. Charles couldn’t get the right feel for his car, especially the front end, but on his final run, he still managed to get close to the third row that could have been within his reach. Tomorrow’s race will be long and difficult, with tyre behaviour playing a crucial role. On this front, the top ten are all starting on the same compound so we will be fighting on equal terms. We know our race pace is not as good as we would like at the moment, but we will prepare well tonight and tomorrow and will continue to do so over the coming weeks, in order to give our drivers an ever more competitive package."

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 19: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 on track during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 19, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)


AlphaTauri have two drivers at different ends of the grid again, with Gasly the one to impress on home soil. He made it to Q3 without any dramas, but saw his first lap time deleted for track limits. Up against it, he came out first of the field for the final runs, nailing his lap to grab an impressive sixth. But his team mate’s qualifying didn’t last nearly as long, Tsunoda bringing out the red flags after spinning at the beginning of Q1. He will start from the back of the field, and might well need a new gearbox to boot.

Pierre Gasly, 6th, 1:30.868

“It’s a very good day and I’m really pleased to qualify in sixth position. It’s been quite a difficult weekend up to this point, I haven’t felt that comfortable in the car and we’ve struggled a bit with the changing conditions. We’d made lots of set-up changes to the car across the weekend and it all came together for Qualifying. After the disappointment of finding out my lap was cancelled, I knew I had just one shot to get it right in Q3. My adrenalin levels were high, and I managed to put an even better lap together, so I’m very happy with that. Tomorrow will be interesting for us as we return to a normal race circuit, we’re starting on the same tyres as everyone else, so strategy will be key. We’ll give everything we have and hopefully we can get some good points here, in front of my home crowd.”

Yuki Tsunoda, No time set in Q1

“It was my mistake today in qualifying and I want to apologise to the team. I just used too much of the yellow curb at Turn 1 and I spun out. I tried to brake as much as possible to avoid contact with the barrier, but it was like skating on ice as I was going backwards. It was fairly low impact, but there is some damage to the car so the team will have to work hard tonight to get me ready for tomorrow. The best way to thank the team would be to have a good race tomorrow. It’s difficult to overtake here but I’ll push as hard as I can every lap and use every opportunity I get.”

Guillaume Dezoteux, Head of Vehicle Performance

“Unfortunately for Yuki qualifying didn't last long today. The car was sharp at the start of the lap and he ran too tight in Turn 1, which meant he lost it. He sustained some damage on the rear-end but we will be able to fix it for tomorrow without a doubt. Pierre had a very strong qualifying and we are delighted to see him getting such a great result at his home Grand Prix. Straight from the start of qualifying Pierre was fast and we could see our balance was better compared to the previous sessions. He is in a strong position for tomorrow and we will now look at the strategy simulations to understand what scenario is best to allow us to bring home some good points.”

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 19: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Scuderia AlphaTauri walks off the circuit after spinning during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 19, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)


Norris had a tricky session after running wide in Q2 and seeing his lap time deleted. He made a second lap on the same set of medium tyres work, but could have missed out on the top 10 altogether after being called back into the pits on his final run due to a fuelling issue. He was fortunate to make it through, and was joined by his team mate. Ricciardo had to run the mediums in Q3 which was far from ideal, and his one lap on the softs was only good enough for P10.

Daniel Ricciardo, 10th, 1:31.382

“It was positive that we got through to Q3 on the Medium tyre, that was definitely a target. My final lap felt good, and it felt like we had enough pace to be better than tenth. I’m a bit disappointed not to be a bit higher up the grid, but it is what it is. We’re still searching for those extra few tenths over a single lap, so we’ll try to make something happen tomorrow. All in all, I’m pretty happy with the performance. Everyone’s fast right now and the times are so tight, so we’ll work to keep finding pace.”

Lando Norris, 8th, 1:31.252

“Tough quali, not really the position I was hoping for. I was aiming for just a little bit more, but we didn't quite have the pace. The next few cars were a few tenths ahead. I felt like I could’ve been one or two tenths better on my lap, but I don’t think I could’ve been any more than one position higher. We weren’t quite quick enough to battle them today, but I’m hoping tomorrow we can work on a few things and come back stronger. There’s still a good chance for some points and that’s what we’re aiming for.”

Andreas Seidl, Team Principal

“It was a difficult qualifying session for us today, with a few challenges along the way. It was good that we progressed into Q3 with both cars on Medium tyres, and in the final analysis, we have to acknowledge that qualifying in P8 and P10 is pretty much where the car has been so far this weekend, in terms of pace. “On the positive side, it’s pleasing to have both cars in Q3 again and our starting positions present us with a real chance to fight for good points tomorrow.”

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 19: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 19, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)


After looking so strong in practice, qualifying was a slight bump back down to earth for the French outfit at their home race. Ocon struggled with the feel of the car in the changeable conditions and was disappointed to miss Q3. He does have the silver lining of free tyre choice though. Alonso did make the top 10 shootout but had to run a set of mediums in the initial stages, and once he switched to softs he could only manage ninth.

Esteban Ocon, 11th, 1:31.736

“It’s a shame not to get into the top 10 but we know it’s all to play for tomorrow. After a good start to qualifying in Q1 with the car feeling good on the softs, we just seemed to be lacking the pace on the medium in Q2. It’s all about those small margins and it’s the difference between making Q3 or not. It’s frustrating now, but the weekend is not over. We’re just outside the points and we aim to score tomorrow. We have to think outside the box on strategy a bit, and we’ll give it our best.”

Fernando Alonso, 9th, 1:31.340

“I am happy with today and I think it’s more or less where we expected to be. Our pace looked good going into qualifying and then I felt we maximised most of our laps during the session with a few exceptions. It’s going to be very tight tomorrow and we are around some very quick cars all on the same tyres. Overall, though, I think we have to be satisfied with our starting position and the points are given out tomorrow, so we need to prepare for the race in the proper way.”

Davide Brivio, Racing Director

“It was a very close qualifying today between a number of cars. Fernando did a good job in getting into Q3, while it was a shame for Esteban to narrowly miss out. The team has been strong all weekend and we want to carry this momentum forward and into tomorrow where we’ll try our best to secure a good result with both cars. We’ll assess how we can maximise any opportunities.”

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 19: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Alpine A521 Renault on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 19, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Aston Martin

Having been well outside the top 10 in all three practice sessions, it was no surprise to see Vettel wind up 12th in qualifying. Stroll though was slightly unfortunate as he failed to set a time full stop. His first lap in Q1 was deleted for exceeding track limits, his next attempt he aborted and on his third try the red flags came out. He races at the stewards’ discretion for a second consecutive Sunday.

Sebastian Vettel, 12th, 1:31.736

“We looked strong in Q1 on the soft tyres, but I do not think anybody wanted to start the race on the soft tyres, which is why we ran on the medium tyres in Q2. We believed there was a real chance to make Q3 on the medium, but, for yet unknown reasons, the balance did not feel as good on my last run. The front end was washing out and I could not extract the grip I needed. Maybe I pushed a bit too hard, but we were not far away from making Q3. For tomorrow, we have a free choice of tyres, but all of the top 10 will be on the medium tyres anyway, so it is not easy to vary the strategy. Tomorrow will be about who is best at managing the tyre life and degradation.”

Lance Stroll, No time set in Q1

“It is one of those things. You can never predict when red flags are going to happen, and we were very unlucky to have two in Q1. I also had a lap time deleted, but that lap showed there is good pace in the car. I felt happy with the balance and the progress we have made so far this weekend, so there are positives to take away. It is a shame it is difficult to overtake at Paul Ricard, but you never know. We will keep our fingers crossed for some rain tomorrow, and we will try to push our way up the field from P19 regardless.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO

“You win some, you lose some, often as a result of a hair’s breadth. Sometimes it really is not your fault. Today was one of those days. Lance drove a great lap in Q1, but it was disallowed owing to a small margin of track limits violation that gained him nothing in terms of lap time. Then his chances of recovering were scuppered due to the late red flag, which was outside of his control. Sebastian did well to get through to Q2 but struggled with a lack of front-end grip on his quick lap and ended up P12. As always, both drivers will push as hard as possible for points tomorrow.”

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 19: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Aston Martin AMR21 Mercedes on track during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 19, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Alfa Romeo

Raikkonen fell victim to the late red flags in Q1, as he was improving and looked set to make it into Q2. Not to be for the Finn, but at least his team mate sneaked in, although the Italian couldn’t get close to the top 10 today. Slightly out of position, it could be a tricky day for the team tomorrow in their quest to add to their points tally.

Kimi Raikkonen, 17th, 1:33.354

“Recently, the red flags seem to destroy my laps all the time. I was on a good one, the time was going to be okay, but when the red flag came out it was game over. In the end, that’s what it is and there’s nothing I can do about it. P17 on the grid is not ideal, but tomorrow is another day: our race pace was okay yesterday so we will try to get a result out of a disappointing Saturday.”

Antonio Giovinazzi, 13th, 1:31.813

“We can be happy about today’s result: our target was P11, to be close to the top 10 but not quite in it, as we knew the soft tyres would not be a good compound for the race. We nearly hit this target and we were very close to the cars ahead of us: tomorrow there’s everything to play for. Choosing our starting tyre will allow us to maximise our strategy: if we have a good start and a clean first lap, we can make up some places and make our way into the points. Our race pace wasn’t bad so we can be confident.”

Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal

“The team did a good job today and we are confident we would have been on course to have a good result with both cars, hadn’t it been for the second red flag. As things went, we have to be really happy with the position Antonio achieved: he will be able to start on the best possible tyres and we’ll have all strategy options open to us. Kimi’s race will be a bit more difficult, starting from the back, but with a good start and a good strategy we can hope to make up some places. Our race pace looked good in practice so we’re still in with a chance.”

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GIOVINAZZI Antonio (ita), Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN C41, action during the Formula 1 Emirates Grand Prix de France 2021, 7th round of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship from June 18 to 20, 2021 on the Circuit Paul Ricard, in Le Castellet, France - Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI


Latifi was agonisingly close to making it out of Q1, being pipped by his team mate by just 0.002s. That meant Russell kept both his Q2 run going, and also his record of out-qualifying his team mate at Williams at every race so far in his career. The Briton couldn’t make much progress forward in Q2 though, despite trying both the medium and soft compounds.

George Russell, 14th, 1:32.065

"It was a good session, but a little scrappy with the red flags and the traffic to deal with. My lap in Q2 wasn’t as good as I would have liked; it was my first real laps on the medium tyre and they take a bit of getting used to, so I think there were still a couple more tenths in there if I’m honest. Nevertheless, P14 is a good qualifying result and we’re putting a lot of effort into our race pace and trying to improve our Sunday performance, so hopefully we can make it count tomorrow."

Nicholas Latifi, 16th, 1:33.062

"Qualifying was a very interrupted session for me. Unfortunately, the first tyres I had on were wasted due to the first red flag, and the second red flag meant I only got to complete one flying lap. That was obviously frustrating as I was up on my previous time, but it caught a few others out and that’s racing sometimes. The car felt good around here though, so we’ll see what we can do tomorrow in the race."

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

"Cooler and calmer conditions today improved the performance compared to yesterday. Minor adjustments to the set-up and the updated aero parts also improved the car and both drivers were happy after FP3.

"Qualifying was a tricky session with two red flags in Q1 meaning that few timed laps were completed. George did just enough to progress to Q2 despite some traffic in Sector 3, sadly Nicholas missed out by the smallest of margins. In Q2 we opted to run a lightly scrubbed Qualifying tyre followed by a new Option tyre. George made a good improvement with the new Option, but lack of experience using this compound at low fuel meant that he couldn’t get everything out of the tyre. Nonetheless, both drivers did well in a difficult session and will start the race tomorrow in reasonable positions. There could be some storms around tomorrow and so we could be in for an exciting race."

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 19: Nicholas Latifi of Canada driving the (6) Williams Racing FW43B Mercedes on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 19, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)


Schumacher technically made his first Q2 appearance of the season – except he didn’t. The rookie crashed in the late stages of Q1, bringing out the red flags and foxing everyone else’s efforts to improve. P15 is still his best qualifying to date though, even if he didn't get to run. As for Mazepin, he lost his last flying lap when his team mate spun off, and made his feelings very clear on the radio.

Mick Schumacher, 15th, No time set in Q2

“I pushed too hard going into the corner and that kicked out the rear. The car is very wind affected – I don’t know if that would have triggered some extra oversteer. Nonetheless, we’ve managed to get into our first Q2 session of the year, so things brighten up and hopefully we can get more of those days in the future. There is damage to the car, how great we don’t know yet. If everything is okay we’ll start from there and obviously it is on paper, and that’s what matters to me. If something happens, I’ve got 53 laps to catch up. I’m optimistic that we see the light at the end of the tunnel. The team is getting more motivated every day, I am more motivated every day and those results prove that our hard work is growing.”

Nikita Mazepin, 18th, 1:33.554

“I wasn’t entirely happy with the car. We have FP1, FP2 and FP3 giving you time to get into the groove and set your time but Q1 sometimes can be very different. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my lap time done when it needed to be done and as fast as it needed to be. If you have two red flags in a session and it’s that short, that’s what happens. If you look at the statistics, things like this don’t happen often but obviously when they do happen, Saturday night’s sleep gets a bit interrupted, shall we say. It’s just one of those things. The race is so long that you finish where your speed is, so let’s see.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“It would’ve been a good day if we hadn’t crashed on Mick’s last run. We’re still investigating the gearbox and if we need to change it or not. At the moment it seems we don’t, so let’s hope it stays like this as this would be the first time this year that we’ve got into Q2. Otherwise, nothing big to report as we just went on. Let’s hope we can start from where we are now.”

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LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 19: Nikita Mazepin of Russia driving the (9) Haas F1 Team VF-21 Ferrari on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 19, 2021 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)


Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

"The almost unanimous decision to run the Yellow medium tyre in Q2 gives some idea of what we can expect from the race strategy tomorrow, with the medium C3 compound offering more durability than the soft without costing too much by way of performance. But with all the top 10 starting on the medium, this leaves the way clear for those behind them to try something different tactically and potentially gain an advantage in the early stages of the race. This could be the case in particular if it rains and temperatures then drop tomorrow, which might bring the track back towards the softest compound. Congratulations to Max Verstappen and Red Bull for pole position, which also happens to be Pirelli's 250th pole in Formula 1."



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