French Grand Prix – A tow from Carlos Sainz helped see Charles Leclerc to pole in France ahead of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
It was a slow start to the qualifying session, not for lack of cars however, just that the outlaps were taken at a very leisurely pace as drivers tried to give themselves space. Mick Schumacher was the first to put a time on the board, a 1:33.858 on soft tyres, which were the tyre of choice in the hot, sunny Southern France weather.
Qualifying Results – 2022 French Grand Prix
Charles Leclerc put Ferrari on top early on with a 1:31.727 and that saw him ahead of Max Verstappen until the end as the Red Bull racer didn’t improve on his final run while the Monegasque remained in the pits, alongside his teammate and McLaren’s Lando Norris who had been in P5.
Alexander Albon had spin on his final run which brought out the yellow flag and saw a few drivers have to abandon their own efforts too. Schumacher wasn’t one of those and had made it into P10 with his last run but just took too much into T3 and his lap was deleted as a result and that saw him back to P19 and not continuing into Q2. Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda also had times deleted, Ricciardo for T6 and Tsunoda for T3, but both still had other laps good enough to see them through.
As both Carlos Sainz and Kevin Magnussen will be starting the Grand Prix from the back of the grid as they have both taken a fourth of each of multiple power unit components (ICE, turbo charger, MGU-H and MGU-K), and so it was unsurprising that the two were the last to leave the pits, Sainz putting in a couple of laps and slotting into P2 while the Haas driver only appeared as everyone was headed out for their final runs.
Eliminated were Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll, who set the same times, along with Zhou Guanyu, Schumacher and Nicholas Latifi.
After only appearing at the death of Q1, Magnussen was out with the rest as Q2 started, this time it was Sainz waiting in the pits for longer than his rivals. The Red Bulls were the quicker in the early stages with Sergio Perez and then Verstappen outpacing Leclerc. However, when Sainz put his first time in, a 1:31.081, he went over 0.9 seconds faster than anyone else.
There was a rush at the end of the session as all drivers identified the best time to go out at the same time so there were thirteen cars on track as Sainz and Verstappen remained in their garages.
While there weren’t many improvements at the end of Q1, the opposite could not be said about Q2 as the times they were a changing and those on the bubble and in the elimination zone were constantly altering.
Leclerc moved up to P2 but it was George Russell and Tsunoda who made the most important improvements jumping up from the elimination spots to P7 and P10 respectively while tomorrow’s back of the grid pair, Sainz and Magnussen ended P1 and P8 displacing Ricciardo, Esteban Ocon, Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel and Albon.
The Ferraris were first out as the final portion of qualifying started and it was once again a snail’s pace outlap until Perez and Alonso disagreed with the speed and moved ahead to get on with things.
The Mexican was the first to set a time then, a 1:31.640, though with a tow from Sainz, who ducked into the pits instead of completing his lap, Leclerc went to the top with a 1:31.209 a benchmark which just held out from Verstappen by 0.008 when the reigning champion set his lap a few seconds later.
As the cars headed out for the final runs Sainz was once again ahead of Leclerc ready to give his teammate another slipstream advantage. Perez was first on track while Norris would be the last to take the chequered flag. Magnussen remained in the garage for the whole of Q3.
The tow saw Leclerc improve to a 1:30.872 and while Verstappen did better his previous time, he couldn’t compare to the combined Ferrari effort, 0.304 seconds slower, and so will start P2 just ahead of Perez.
Lewis Hamilton will join the Mexican on row 2, after setting a 1:31.765, while Norris split the Mercedes cars so he will start P5 with Russell beside him. Alonso’s time was just over 1.6 seconds off Leclerc but that means he will start from P7.
Tsunoda was P8 while Sainz and Magnussen rounded out the top ten without either setting a Q3 lap. As Sainz did go out in the final part of qualifying he should start ahead of the Haas on the back row. That will see Ricciardo and Ocon sitting on row five for the start of the Grand Prix tomorrow.