The Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team enjoyed a superb qualifying session yesterday at a dry and sunny Paul Ricard ahead of today’s French Grand Prix with Charles Leclerc making it through to the final Q3 session for the first time to finish in an impressive P8 while his team mate Marcus Ericsson after a tough weekend so far also performed well as he made it out of the opening session and into Q2 to set the P15 time.
The return of the French Grand Prix after 28 years to the Circuit Paul Ricard circuit kicked off on Friday with the first two free practice sessions which gave the participating teams an opportunity to learn about the track itself, as well as the performance of their cars at this location.
Leclerc showed a strong performance throughout the first day, reporting that the track was challenging and that was excited to learn more about and to tackle over the weekend. Ericsson, meanwhile, enjoyed a positive first free practice session before an incident left his car damaged and prevented him from participating the second session.
Saturday saw the team put in its best qualifying performance since Alfa Romeo returned to Formula 1 at the start of this season as the title sponsor of the Swiss outfit and it was the first time either driver had gone through to the final Q3 session.
The young Ferrari-supported Monégasque rookie did a superb job to squeeze into the top ten right at the end of the Q2 session.
Leclerc then built further on that, gaining one place at the expense of one of the Haas-Ferrari drivers, Romain Grosjean, who crashed out early in the Q3 session, and then beating the best time of the other Haas of Kevin Magnussen to snatch a starting place on the fourth row of the grid.
Ericsson also did very well in the qualifying sessions to finish in P15 after advancing to the Q2 runs following a strong performance during the first qualifying portion.
The Swedish driver only ran in one Free Practice session out of the three over Friday and Saturday and the team had to work hard to ready the car for qualifying following a morning crash and a resulting engine bay fire which required a chassis change.
The team has made improvements to the Ferrari-powered Sauber C37 single-seater since arriving at Le Castellet and goes into this afternoon’s grand Prix well positioned on the grid and with an extra boost of motivation.
Today's French Grand Prix falls on the 108th anniversary of the founding of Alfa Romeo on 24 June 1910 as A.L.F.A. (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili) and the launch of its first car, the 24 HP.
C37 (Chassis 01 in FP3/Qualifying; Chassis 03 in FP1)
Qualifying: 15th in Q2 (1:32.804 min / ultrasoft tyres)
1st practice: 14th (1:34.592 min / 21 laps) 3rd practice: 8th (1:38.450 min / ultrasoft tyres / 3 laps)
"After the weekend that I have had, I can say that I am satisfied with my result today, especially considering that I missed both FP2, following an incident in FP1, and FP3 due to the rain. Given the limited amount of time we had, I did not think that Q2 was possible. Instead the qualifying went well. Q1 ran smoothly, and I had a good lap that let me progress to Q2. In Q2 I had strong pace, but unfortunately lost some time in my last fast-lap attempt after making an error. I am happy with the result. The whole team did a good job. Having one car finish in Q2, and the other in Q3, is a great reward for the whole team - both at the track and at the factory."
C37 (Chassis 04)
Qualifying: 8th in Q3 (1:32.538 min / ultrasoft tyres)
1st practice: 13th (1:34.513 min / 21 laps); 2nd practice: 14th (1:35.583 min / 33 laps); 3rd practice: 3rd (1:35.012 min / ultrasoft tyres / 5 laps)
"I am very happy with my qualifying today. It was not only a success in terms of the final result, but also because since yesterday we made a huge step forward. To finish qualifying in P8 (Q3) is an amazing feeling, and I would like to thank the team for the job they have done. The car feels great and I feel very comfortable on track. I look forward to the race very much, and am excited to see what will be possible."
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
"We are very pleased with today's result. Having one car in Q2 (Marcus Ericsson), and the other in Q3 (Charles Leclerc), is a great achievement for the whole team. Charles did a perfect job in managing his lap and picking up the pace and Marcus made it into Q2 for the first time this season. We made a great recovery with both drivers since yesterday, with Marcus only having one practice session ahead of qualifying and Charles struggling to find a good balance. The most important thing for us is to stay focused and to concentrate on continuing to do a good job tomorrow.”
Photos: Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team - 2018 FIA F1 World Championship