Leclerc stormed to his sixth pole position of the year ahead of main F1 title rival Max Verstappen.

Carlos Sainz has resigned to the back of the grid after taking new power unit components following his engine failure last time out in Austria.

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With Red Bull showing impressive straight-line speed, Ferrari used Sainz to give Leclerc a slipstream down from the exit of Turn 9 into Turn 10.

Speaking after qualifying at Le Castellet, Sainz said: “I think we’ve received quite a lot of criticism on the strategy front and I think it’s a bit unfair because every team this season, there’s going to be mistakes with tyres, choosing tyres and everything. 

“But I think this year the team has been very solid on the strategy side and I think today proves it. Also the relationship with Charles and the way the team works I think again proves that it’s working very well and we are working very well together. 

“It’s nice to see. I think you need to give it to us and to Ferrari that we did a very nice day.”

Sainz revealed that giving Leclerc a tow in Q3 was always planned after his engine penalties were announced earlier in the weekend.

“Yeah, the target was to get to Q3 to give Charles the tow two times as we did,” Sainz explained. So, it was the plan for the whole weekend. I know how to give a good two because I know what I need in my qualy lap if I wanted to gain two, three tenths from a tow. 

“So, I knew what to do from the beginning and I think we executed it nicely. It’s a shame it has to come on a weekend that I’m probably feeling the best with the car and I’ve been very quick through yesterday’s practice. 

“Today in qualy, I think my Q2 lap was up there. But yeah, happy for the team, happy to see Charles profiting from it and getting the pole. Now it’s time for me to get back to the front tomorrow.”

Leclerc thanked his teammate afterwards.

“It was a great lap,” he said. I've struggled all weekend to put a lap together and I managed to put it, but I have to say that I also had the help of Carlos, and that was an amazing teamwork.

“Without Carlos, it will have been much more close. So yeah, huge thanks to Carlos. And I hope that he can join us back in the fight for the win tomorrow.”

Verstappen downplays the tow

Verstappen doesn’t think the 0.3s gap to Leclerc was entirely down to the tow, with the reigning F1 champion explaining that he made two mistakes on his final lap.

“I don’t think it’s 0.3s,” Verstappen added. “Of course, it’s quite a bit. Overall, I just look at myself, what could we have done better and overall, that final lap, wasn’t a clean lap just by being on the limit or trying to find that limit, I had two moments which cost me a bit of lap time and those things we have to figure out why they happen and how we can make it more predictable let’s say. 

“We still have two cars in the top three so that’s good.”