Charles Leclerc thanks Carlos Sainz as he prepares to keep Max Verstappen at bay

Charles Leclerc will start the French Grand Prix from pole ahead of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

Charles Leclerc was grateful to team-mate Carlos Sainz for giving him a slipstream during qualifying as he claimed his seventh pole position of the season in France.

Leclerc had gone quickest in the first free practice session as Ferrari looked to continue their impressive run of form, and he topped the first qualifying session on Saturday.

Sainz pushed to go fastest in Q2 as Leclerc, Verstappen and Perez all cooled it off in the middle part of qualifying, and the reason for keeping the Spaniard out – despite starting at the back due to a grid penalty – was to give the 24-year-old a tow in Q3.

Indeed, that slipstream helped him set a lap just eight thousandths of a second faster than Verstappen initially, but he blew the Red Bulls away on the second run as he took pole by over three tenths.

READ: Charles Leclerc warns Red Bull are doing ‘something different’

The five-time race winner conceded that he could scarcely put a clean lap together during practice, so was delighted with the inch perfect run at the end.

“It’s a great lap,” he told Johnny Herbert after qualifying.

“I’ve struggled all weekend to put a lap together and I managed to put it [together] but I have to say that I also had the help of Carlos and that was an amazing teamwork.

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“Because without Carlos it would have been much more close, so huge thanks to Carlos and I hope that he can join us back in the fight for the win tomorrow.”

Having watched Max Verstappen top FP3 in Saturday morning, the Monegasque was not expecting to have as much pace as he did at the end of the session.

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“After Q1 I think I was very surprised by the pace we had,” said Leclerc.

“I would say in Q2 we were very strong, so somehow we managed to turn that around for qualifying but it’s a good surprise.”

Leclerc also appeared wary of the threat of Red Bull’s race pace despite setting a splendid lap to claim pole.

“It feels good,” he said.

“But again it feels difficult to understand what the Red Bull guys have done yesterday because there was loads of difference in terms of lap time so let’s see how it goes tomorrow.”

Leclerc’s pole in France was the 16th of his career, and his seventh of the season so far.