For only the second time in 2021, Carlos Sainz Jr. was able to get the better of team-mate Charles Leclerc in a Qualifying session, with the Spaniard set to start the French Grand Prix fifth on the grid.
After a troubled Friday where Sainz appeared to struggle, he was able to put together a strong run in Qualifying at the Circuit Paul Ricard on Saturday afternoon, and will line-up on the fifth row of the grid, the best of the rest behind the two Red Bull Racing and two Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers.
Sainz, who joined Scuderia Ferrari at the beginning of 2021 after two years with the McLaren F1 Team, says he is continuing to find the limits with the SF21, and he was thrilled to qualify so far up the grid in France.
“Not a bad day for the team,” said Sainz. “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.”
“I didn’t do a good job of driving around the balance limitation of my car” – Charles Leclerc
Team-mate Leclerc was unable to make it a hat trick of pole positions, with the Monegasque racer having to settle for seventh after consecutive poles in Monaco and Azerbaijan.
Leclerc admitted it was not a great performance from him at Paul Ricard, and he knows he will have to do better on Sunday if he is to fight for big points. However, he believes the team are in a great position to be able to score a good number of points if they get everything right.
“A tricky qualifying from my side,” said Leclerc. “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, fifth and seventh 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”.