Case of mistaken identity hits McLaren, Ricciardo at French GP

Max Verstappen claimed pole position for the French Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes alongside the Red Bull driver on the front row to lay the foundations for another gripping instalment in this season’s delicately-poised title battle.

Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes starts on the second row with Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez.

Stream Every Practice, Qualifier & Race of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship™ Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >

Verstappen leads Hamilton by just four points in the F1 world championship ahead of the seventh race of the season at the Circuit Paul Ricard on Sunday night (AEST).

Hamilton won from pole the last two races staged at Le Castellet in 2018 and 2019, but Verstappen had approached qualifying as the man to beat after dominating the final two practice sessions.

Verstappen, claiming his first pole since the season-opener in Bahrain, is anxious to translate his qualifying dominance into a win after a shredded tyre robbed him of almost certain victory in Baku last time out.

“So far it’s been a really positive weekend, on a track that is normally difficult for us. To get pole position was really nice.

“Great day for us but we have to finish it off tomorrow and get 25 points — which we lost in Baku. Great promise from our side.”

After struggling to keep tabs with his Red Bull rival in practice Hamilton was relieved to narrow the gap between them to 0.258s.

“We’ll keep pushing, keep fighting and giving it everything. Their long-run pace is a tenth or two quicker than us, but the car’s in a much different place now,” said the seven-time world champion.

“We’re going to fight for a chance into turn one and there could be some interesting strategy tomorrow, and I think there could be some rain tomorrow, so a chance to see a rain master.”

Carlos Sainz for Ferrari posted the fifth quickest time in qualifying to seal a third row spot with Pierre Gasly’s Alpha Tauri joining him.

Then came Sainz’s teammate Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris with Fernando Alonso (Alpine) and Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) completing the top 10.

Ricciardo is still finding his way with McLaren. (Photo by Antonin Vincent – Pool/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

Mistaken identity for Ricciardo as Aussie reacts to qualifying

Ricciardo was slightly disappointed with the result but didn’t believe there was anything else he could have done to push himself higher up the grid as teammate Norris out-qualified him again.

“Qualified 10th. Not as far up as I wanna be of course but wasn’t much left in it today,” he posted on Instagram. “Bring on tomorrow.”

Talking to media post-qualifying, Ricciardo revealed his true feelings about the day and said there’s still some pace he needs to find in his car.

“The position, no (I’m not happy),” he said. “The day I’m happy with a 10th is the day I should probably stop racing.

“But from a weekend, it’s been a good weekend. No big issues, no big complaints. I haven’t felt like we’ve been scratching our head, or we’ve been lost, I think it’s been smooth.

“I think ultimately the best way to say it is everyone is fast at the moment. The competition is tough and I think of course maybe there’s a tenth (of a second) in the car I can find, but ultimately those few tenths now we’ve got to keep developing and finding the speed.

“The car felt decent, there’s always bits you want to improve, but not a session where we’re throwing our arms up. Ultimately I think everyone has found some speed at the moment.

“Of course, if you look at Lando, he’s a tenth up the road. So I’ll say there’s a tenth in the car for me to still find. It’s not one where I’m like there’s three tenths, four tenths on the table. It really felt like we were just driving to the limit of the car today.

“Not any bad behaviour, we were just using all the grip and track we could. For that I say the others are taking steps and the competition’s tight, so we’ll keep working.

“You look at the times of the pole today and we’re actually still quite a big step (behind) … I don’t want to be negative, it’s been a positive conversation, but there’s still obviously a lot of lap time to find with these current spec cars.”

There was a funny moment during qualifying when Ricciardo’s race engineer had a slip of the tongue — and possibly showed McLaren is still getting used to the Aussie driver in his debut season — calling him the wrong name.

“Darren, do you think — oh sorry,” the engineer said. “Daniel, do you think this is a first lap tyre?”

Ricciardo can find some extra pace yet. (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP)Source:AFP

With qualifying watched by a 15,000-strong crowd allowed in after the easing of coronavirus restrictions, Q1 was only four minutes old when it was red-flagged after Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda lost control of his Alpha Tauri coming out of turn one, his car pirouetting gracefully into the safety barrier.

This was the fourth time out of seven Tsunoda has failed to progress to Q2. With 22 seconds left of Q1 Mick Schumacher’s Haas crashed into a barrier, cruel luck for the German after making it into Q2 for the very first time in his fledgling F1 career but unable to take part with his car requiring repairs.

Verstappen topped Q1 with Hamilton, Perez and Bottas closest. The Mercedes duo rose to the top of the times in Q2, with Bottas edging Hamilton who was much punchier than he had been in practice. Perez and Verstappen were next, setting up an intriguing Q3 skirmish for pole.

After the first throw of the Q3 dice it was Verstappen on provisional pole with Hamilton alongside him, and that is how it ended after the final flurry of flying laps.

Hamilton and Mercedes were thankful to return to a traditional circuit after disastrous performances on the streets of Monaco and Baku.

But on the evidence of this qualifying the two teams’ cars are pretty equally matched.

One man relishing the compelling contest is Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff who said: “I think it’s fantastic what has been thrown at us (this season). No year is easy but this year? It’s awesome.”

French Grand Prix Qualifying: Top 10

1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull

2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes

4) Sergio Perez, Red Bull

5) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

6) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri

7) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

8) Lando Norris, McLaren

9) Fernando Alonso, Alpine

10) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren

Source: Read Full Article