Charles Leclerc was the star of Qualifying for the French Grand Prix, with the Monegasque racer making it through to the top ten shootout for the first time in his short career, and will start from eighth on the grid on Sunday.
The Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team racer gave the Hinwil-based squad their first Q3 appearnce in more than three years, with the Chinese Grand Prix of 2015 the last time the Swiss team participated in the shootout for pole position.
Leclerc was never going to be fighting for pole, but just making it through to the top ten was an achievement, and he felt the team took a big step forward between Friday and Saturday that gave him the chance of the upset.
“I am very happy with my qualifying today,” said Leclerc. “It was not only a success in terms of the final result, but also because since yesterday we made a huge step forward.
“To finish qualifying in P8 (Q3) is an amazing feeling, and I would like to thank the team for the job they have done. The car feels great and I feel very comfortable on track.”
Leclerc will start the race on the Ultrasoft tyres he qualified on for the first time in his career, but after scoring points in three of the last four races despite starting outside the top ten, he is excited to see what Sunday brings him.
“I look forward to the race very much, and am excited to see what will be possible,” said Leclerc.
Team-mate Marcus Ericsson made it through to the second segment of Qualifying and will start fifteenth, despite missing Friday’s second practice following his opening session crash and being compromised by the weather in final practice on Saturday morning. This left the Swede considerably underprepared for Qualifying, but he managed to escape Q1 none-the-less.
“After the weekend that I have had, I can say that I am satisfied with my result today, especially considering that I missed both FP2, following an incident in FP1, and FP3 due to the rain,” said Ericsson.
“Given the limited amount of time we had, I did not think that Q2 was possible. Instead the qualifying went well. Q1 ran smoothly, and I had a good lap that let me progress to Q2. In Q2 I had strong pace, but unfortunately lost some time in my last fast-lap attempt after making an error.
“I am happy with the result. The whole team did a good job. Having one car finish in Q2, and the other in Q3, is a great reward for the whole team – both at the track and at the factory.
“I look forward to tomorrow.”