FRENCH GRAND PRIX – Pole after perfectly executed team match: Ferrari win it all at Le Castellet

“Great Carlos”. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) was not wrong to comment on his seventh pole position of the season. In the midst of a deceleration lap, the Monegasque addressed his first words on the radio to Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard, sent to the back of the grid for a fourth power unit change, has donned the guise of a luxury lieutenant to propel his teammate to the top of the classification (1’30″872) on Saturday at the afternoon in Le Castellet.

He gave him the aspiration in the final run of Q3, recording Max Verstappen (Red Bull) by three tenths. “It was a great journey for meLeclerc commented on Johnny Herbert’s microphone. We suffered all weekend to put everything together and do a good lap. It must be said that Carlos helped me. It gave me exceptional aspiration. It was wonderful teamwork.”

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The second maneuver was the good one

For Sainz, this baking qualifying session at Le Castellet was not at stake. Even before he left the garage at 4 p.m., he knew his efforts would be in vain. Exceeding the limit of three engines, the fixed penalty fell unsurprisingly. Once for the winner of the British Grand Prix, although the advances are legion in Le Castellet (52 in 2021). But an advantage for Scuderia Ferrari, who saw in the Spaniard the providential man to help Leclerc stay ahead of the supersonic Red Bulls on the straight.

The 7 km/h advantage offered to Verstappen and Sergio Pérez in this part of the circuit left the Transalpins fearing the worst, who responded tactically and as a team. While Leclerc had set the reference time in the third qualifying session (1’31″200) by placing himself on his teammate’s diffuser, the Dutchman pointed the nose of his RB18 to 8 small thousandths. The danger was too great not to repeat the dangerous collective maneuver.

Charles Leclerc at the French GP

Credit: Getty Images

The Monegasque started his last solo attempt, lighting up the first sector in purple. At the start of the third sector he found his good Samaritan on the Mistral straight and the Signes bend. The suction lasted a few hectometres, at most, for a perfect execution.

Planned collective work

That momentum was a lifesaver as Charlot crossed the finish line in an impressive time, first under the 1’30 mark, well ahead of his Dutch and Mexican rivals. “The Red Bulls would have been closer if we hadn’t used that strategy“, assured the polem. Later, he will confide to Canal + journalists that the intervention of the “Smooth operator” made him “Win two tenths in the straight” : “The pressure is therefore less strong in the third sector.”

“It was our plan from the beginning of the weekendSainz revealed to Sky Sports. I had to go into Q3 and fire Charles. We hadn’t worked on it, but I knew how to give it the aspiration.” If Verstappen ensured that Leclerc would have won the pole position without the help of Sainz, Ferrari can still be congratulated and highlight the teamwork achieved by its drivers. In Le Castellet, the team’s interest prevailed. It is enough to silence the criticism that has been raised for several weeks about the discord within the Scuderia.

We told the tense atmosphere in the transalpine garage since the British Grand Prix won by Sainz at the expense of Leclerc. The two men showed great cohesion to thwart Red Bull’s plans. “The team is very united, we work very well together. Charles and Carlos put themselves at the service of the team”insisted Laurent Mekies, race director of the Transalpine team, that he will have a lot of work on Sunday.

Tire degradation will hurt drivers. Above all, Leclerc will have to manage his exit well under pressure from Red Bull. We know that Verstappen is particularly fond of muscular overtaking in the first corner. “We have shown great things in the long stays. I hope to bring home the victory and Carlos can join us in the fight”launched the Monegasque.

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