Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are back at the Paul Ricard circuit, three weeks after taking part in Pirelli 2022 rain tyre testing here. “This track is not one of my real favourites, but I’ve always felt comfortable here,” Carlos told journalists in the usual Thursday press conference. “In fact, it was two wins here in the series in which I was racing in 2014 that got me the chance to make my Formula 1 debut and I hope that this time too I will have a positive weekend. After two races on street circuits, this weekend we are back to a traditional track and I expect to see the same hierarchy among the teams that we had in Portugal and Spain. Once again, our aim is to head the group behind the two teams that lead the classification. From my point of view, I don’t think I’ve yet managed to put together the perfect weekend: when Saturday has gone well, there have been a few flaws in the race; when qualifying did not go well, on Sunday I was able to fight back. When I manage to get it together in qualifying and the race, I’m sure I can bring home many more points for the team, which is the most important thing.”
Probing corners. Charles expressed similar sentiments to Carlos. “I hope I’m wrong, but I think we will struggle to fight for pole position like we did in Monaco and Baku,” said the Monegasque. “Our car lacks a bit of performance in the medium to high speed corners and there are plenty of them at this track. It will be an interesting test for us, giving us an idea of how good a job has been done in Maranello to optimise the potential of the SF21.” Leclerc explained how much he likes Le Castellet and the surrounding area. “I started driving karts when I was very little at the track in Brignoles, a little town 45 kilometres from here, so I know this area quite well. Furthermore, it’s very close to Monte Carlo, so it’s pretty much a home race as I can get to the circuit from home in less than two hours.” Charles added he was very pleased that 15,000 spectators per day will be allowed into the grandstands. “Luckily, unlike previous races we will have more fans in the grandstands. Their number is still limited but it will be nice to have the support of the fans and to see that we are heading back to normality.”
Programme. Tomorrow sees the usual hour-long free practice sessions, the first at 11.30 CET and the second at 15. Qualifying takes place on Saturday at 15, preceded by the final free practice session at 12. The 61st French Grand Prix to count towards the World Championship gets underway on Sunday at 3pm. It runs over 53 laps, equivalent to 309.69 km.