Rosberg: Leclerc impressed for pole… but I’d rather be Verstappen
Charles Leclerc beats Max Verstappen by 0.304s with Sergio Perez third; Carlos Sainz starts from the back of the grid after taking new engine parts; Watch Sunday’s race live on Sky Sports F1 at 2pm, with extensive build-up from 12.30pm
Last Updated: 24/07/22 1:56pm
Nico Rosberg believes Charles Leclerc could be in “trouble” during Sunday’s French Grand Prix due to the setup of his Ferrari, despite having beaten world championship rival Max Verstappen to pole position.
Leclerc outperformed Verstappen in Saturday’s qualifying shootout at the Paul Ricard Circuit, beating the Dutchman by 0.3s, partly thanks to a tow from Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz, who starts from the back of the grid after taking on new engine parts.
During Friday’s practice sessions, Verstappen’s Red Bull appeared to have a significant long-run pace advantage over the Ferraris, but it remains to be seen whether that will be the case under race conditions on Sunday.
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“It was incredibly impressive from Charles Leclerc, but I have a feeling that Ferrari might be making a mistake with the setup of their car,” 2016 world champion Rosberg told Sky Sports F1.
“I think they have too much downforce on that car, because when you have more downforce on, it means you go faster in the corners and load the tyres more and also cause tyre wear and stress them.
“I really think that could cause them trouble tomorrow in the race and that would be an advantage for Red Bull in tomorrow’s race.
“The problem is, the Red Bull’s quick on the straight so the Ferrari can’t back off too much because if the Red Bulls are close coming out of the corners, they could catch Charles on the straights.
“Honestly, looking at Verstappen’s pace from Friday when he was practising for the race, I would definitely prefer to be in Verstappen’s shoes. Because yes, he is only second but he was so rapid with their car in race trim and we know the race is long.”
Sunday’s race is live on Sky Sports F1 at 2pm, with build-up from 12.30pm.
‘Sainz demotion gives Red Bull strategic advantage’
Leclerc won last time out in Austria to reduce Verstappen’s world championship lead to 38 points, in a result that followed a victory for Sainz at the British Grand Prix.
However, with Sainz starting at the back and the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez in third, Rosberg believes Ferrari are unlikely to be able to maintain the momentum they’ve built.
“The strategy is also difficult tomorrow, whether you take a one or two stop,” Rosberg added. “So, I would prefer to be Verstappen at the moment.
“In the very end Sergio also found some and managed to close the gap there. So, he can really help Max as well if he keeps the pace and manages to stay really close to the top two.
“That’s a big asset that Red Bull has as well there and it really hurts Ferrari in this moment more than ever that Carlos is starting way back. With all the strategy options, that’s another big, big strength Red Bull have going into tomorrow’s race.”
Leclerc, Verstappen predict ‘interesting’ contest
While Rosberg was clear in his prediction, both the title protagonists admitted they will go into Sunday’s unsure of which team’s setup will prove more successful.
“Only time will tell, I guess,” Leclerc said. “I don’t know. We’ve got higher downforce, which for tyre management maybe is a little bit better, but on the other hand they are extremely quick down the straights.
“Following here is very difficult so we need to keep that first position at least for the first few laps and then manage our tyres in the best way possible.
“They probably see things differently than we do. It’s interesting because we’ll see what is the compromise that works tomorrow, but if they win then we’ll have to understand why.”
Verstappen, who had won five out of six races before Ferrari’s two recent victories, was cautious despite expressing confidence in his team’s decisions.
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Max Verstappen says Red Bull will be looking for the ‘fastest philosophy’ to take on Charles Leclerc tomorrow at the French Grand Prix.
“I think in general we have a little bit of a different philosophy of how to go fast around here,” Verstappen said.
“We’re a bit faster on the straight, of course that hurts us a little bit, especially in the high-speed corners in the last sector.
“It’s going to be interesting tomorrow to see what is the fastest philosophy. We’ll find out, from our side we’re confident that we can do a good job, but tomorrow it’s going to be really hot and it’s all about looking after those tyres.”