F1 – French GP – Qualifying
Bonjour, MiniFans! We’ve landed in an extremely sunny and hot Paul Ricard, in a race that will take us very close to the summer break. Two places were decided even before the qualifying session kicked off, as engine parts replacements are starting to add up for Sainz and Magnussen.
Breaking away from the usual sight, Magnussen wasn’t among the first ones out in Q1, due to having the penalty that would send him to the back of the grid no matter what he does, but Carlos Sainz did go out early to score a lap, to make sure he’d start in 19th place, instead of 20th, on Sunday. Magnussen would eventually go out at the end and get into Q2, forcing Sainz to
Meanwhile, at the front, the battle between Ferrari and Red Bull was ongoing, with Leclerc coming out on top in this first session. A few track limits meant deleted laps, which sent Schumacher back into the elimination zone, pushing Albon back into the least safe of the spots that meant making it through. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Gasly (P16), Stroll (P17), Zhou (P18), Schumacher (P19) and Latifi (P20).
Mercedes led the field at the start of Q2, but it wasn’t enough to stay at the top, as not only Red Bull and Ferrari soared to the top, but also the McLarens, Alonso and even Magnussen were in front of them, not letting the German team even smell the top places.
Halfway through, Sainz was on top, trying to ensure he’d start in front of Magnussen on Sunday by shaving off almost a second off of the best time until then. However, the Danish driver is anything if not stubborn, and he too put in a lap fast enough to make it to Q3. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Ricciardo (P11), Ocon (P12), Bottas (P13), Vettal (P14) and Albon (P15).
When the fight for the pole arrived, eyes were also in the Sainz vs Magnussen fight, as both were still battling for who’d start from 19th and 20th on Sunday. However, Ferrari took advantage of the fact that Sainz was there and only needed a decent lap, if so, and used him to give Leclerc a tow that helped him settle into first. As the tactic had worked, they decided to try it again, while the Danish driver from Haas didn’t go out, conceding defeat.
The second run gave Leclerc an even lower lap time, in part thanks to Ferrari’s strategy and his teammate’s work, and Verstappen couldn’t do anything to get closer to his championship rivals. However, his teammate Pérez was third, so Red Bull could still have an advantage on Sunday, as the scale tipped in their favour in the number of cars present at the front. Mercedes finally gave the small jump forwards in this session, with Hamilton in fourth and Russell in sixth, split by their fellow British citizen, Norris.
As it’s commonplace in Paul Ricard, the very few incidents that happened during qualifying, that is to say, maybe a couple visits to the outside of the track, didn’t end up in a need to stop the sessions, thanks to the ample asphalt runoff. Track limits did make an appearance, and forbid some drivers from making it through, but they disappeared for the big event. The “battle” between Sainz and Magnussen caught eyes and amused the spectators, as did Sainz’s wonderful work to give a tow to his teammate, so that at least one of them could start the race from pole position.