Leclerc looks to Sainz to help fend off Verstappen in Spain
May 21 2022 11:39 PM
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Ferrari’s Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc (centre) celebrates after qualifying for Spanish Formula
Ferrari’s Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc (centre) celebrates after qualifying for Spanish Formula One Grand Prix in pole position with second-placed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (left) and third-placed Ferrari’s Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr in Barcelona yesterday. (AFP)

AFP/ Montmel?, Spain

Series leader and pole-sitter Charles Leclerc is hoping Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz can help him beat Red Bull’s world champion Max Verstappen to stay in control of the title race in today’s Spanish Grand Prix.
The 24-year-old Monegasque driver showed nerveless calm yesterday when he recovered from a spin on his first lap in the third part of qualifying and delivered a fastest lap to take pole on his second run.
Verstappen, who had gone quickest on his first run, was forced to pull into the pits when he lost power due to a Drag Reduction System (DRS) failure.
He qualified second ahead of local hero Carlos Sainz who was third in the second Ferrari.
“I hope Carlos can help,” said Leclerc.
“I hope we can do a one-two together with Carlos - it would be so great for the team and we will give it our all.”
Leclerc secured his first pole in Spain, his fourth of the season and the 13th of his career after topping the times in a clean sweep of all three practice sessions and goes into Sunday’s race with the momentum.
“I only had that one lap, but it went extremely well,” said Leclerc.
“I feel very good! It was a very, very difficult session, especially in Q3, when I made a mistake on the first run.”
Verstappen qualified second ahead of Sainz in the second Ferrari and a resurgent George Russell for Mercedes, Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes.
Verstappen said: “I couldn’t do my final run. It’s a bit of a shame, but overall to be on the front row here, looking at the whole weekend, it was a good achievement.”
Sainz, cheered by a sell-out crowd at the Circuit de Catalunya, said: “It’s been a tough weekend so far. The conditions have not been easy with the heat and wind, but we managed a decent lap.”
Leclerc added: “We’re in a strong position to start the race, but we have been struggling with tyres in the last few races compared to Red Bull.
“Max is just behind and if we don’t manage these tyres well, we will lose that win so we need to get on top of it and do a good job tomorrow with tyre management.”
Verstappen said he remained confident.
“The last few races, we have seemed decent on the tyres,” he said. “And tomorrow, it will be very hot, very warm.
“This track will be very tough to pass on, but we will see. Hopefully, our car will again be a bit kinder on the tyres, but it’s difficult to tell.”
Both Mercedes drivers hinted they were hopeful their revived form would enable them to fight Ferrari in Sunday’s race, suggesting Red Bull would be untouchable.
“I’ll keep pushing and given that yesterday (Friday) we had our best race pace this year I’m hoping we can compete with the Ferraris,” said Hamilton, who thanked the team for the upgrades package that has transformed the car.
“That would be a big step for us.”
Russell was also bullish about Mercedes hopes of a solid performance on Sunday.
“It’s our best performance in qualifying this season,” he said.
Earlier, Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott told reporters that the defending constructors’ champions had not given up all hope of retaining their title after eight consecutive winning seasons.
“We wouldn’t be here otherwise,” he said, when asked if he believed they can still win the title.
“Until it’s mathematically over, it’s not over. We’re not a huge distance behind.”
After five races ahead of Sunday’s contest, Mercedes are third in the constructor’s title race 63 points behind leaders Ferrari and 57 behind Red Bull.

Ferrari’s Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc (centre) celebrates after qualifying for Spanish Formula One Grand Prix in pole position with second-placed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (left) and third-placed Ferrari’s Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr in Barcelona yesterday. (AFP)

Spanish Grand Prix grid

Front row
Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari)
Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull)
2nd row
Carlos Sainz (ESP/Ferrari)
George Russell (GBR/Mercedes)
3rd row
Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull)
Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes)
4th row
Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari)
Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas-Ferrari)
5th row
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/McLaren-Mercedes)
Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas-Ferrari)
6th row
Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes)
Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine-Renault)
7th row
Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/AlphaTauri-Red Bull)
Pierre Gasly (FRA/AlphaTauri-Red Bull)
8th row
Zhou Guanyu (CHN/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari)
Sebastian Vettel (GER/Aston Martin-Mercedes)
9th row
Fernando Alonso (ESP/Alpine-Renault)
Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin-Mercedes)
10th row
Alexander Albon (THA/Williams-Mercedes)
Nicholas Latifi (CAN/Williams-Mercedes)



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