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Leclerc grabs French Grand Prix pole

Charles Leclerc has continued Ferrari’s recent strong form by snatching pole position for the French Grand Prix, edging out championship leader Max Verstappen.

Monaco’s Leclerc, who won last time out in Austria, set a best lap of 1 minute 30.872 seconds at the 5.842-kilometres Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet on Saturday.

Red Bull’s defending champion Verstappen, who had shown impressive race pace in practice, was 0.304 seconds behind for second spot on the grid with teammate Sergio Perez third quickest in a windy qualifying.

Spanish Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz will start the race from the back of the grid after exceeding the number of power unit changes permitted.

He was already due to serve a 10-place grid penalty for going over the electronics component quota.

But he still had a role to play in qualifying, Leclerc using his slipstream to set his fastest lap.

“It was a great lap. I’ve struggled all weekend to put a lap together but I put it in and I have to says thanks to Carlos for the help. It was great teamwork,” Leclerc said.

“I was very surprised by the pace we had. We managed to turn it around for qualifying.”

Ferrari had won the last two races with Sainz triumphing in Britain and Leclerc in Austria to snap a six-race Red Bull winning streak from Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

Verstappen leads the championship, 38 points ahead of Leclerc after 11 of 22 races thanks to six wins this season.

The Dutchman won last year’s race and was on pole in Le Castellet, which is set to drop off the calendar after this year.

“It was a bit more tricky than I would have hoped,” said Verstappen.

“It will be a bit warmer, but clearly they have been really quick again.”

Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, who will start his 300th grand prix on Sunday, was fourth quickest on the distinctive track lined with blue markings. Mercedes had hoped for a big breakthrough in France.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo had another disappointing outing, failing to make Q3 and will start 11th on the grid while his McLaren teammate Lando Norris was fifth quickest.

Germany’s four-time champion Sebastian Vettel endured more misery on another poor weekend so far for Aston Martin when he was 14th quickest.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen will be on the back row with Sainz after engine changes despite another good showing from the Dane in qualifying.

Team-mate Mick Schumacher, who has also shown a marked improvement in recent weeks, thought he had got into Q2 but the German had his time deleted after going over track limits and was 19th fastest.

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