Max Verstappen claimed his eighth front-row start of the season on Saturday at the French Grand Prix; however, he was once again beaten to pole-position by rival Charles Leclerc.
Heading into qualifying, Verstappen looked strong at the Circuit Paul Ricard.
The reigning World Champion topped FP3, and was within the top three in both FP1 and FP2.
This couldn’t stop Ferrari’s qualifying dominance, though, as Leclerc took pole by a surprising three-tenths of a second.
It leaves Red Bull Racing somewhat scratching their heads again, after losing out on Saturday to Ferrari in what is becoming a usual feature of the 2022 season.
Dr Helmut Marko isn’t too concerned by Leclerc’s pole-time of a 1:30.872, with Red Bull’s advisor having total belief in the team’s race pace.
We trust in our race pace,” Marko told Sky Deutschland.
“In terms of tyres, we have the option to choose between a one-stop or a two-stop.”
Leclerc’s impressive lap-time wasn’t completed on his own, after the Monegasque driver was given an incredible tow by team-mate Carlos Sainz.
With Sainz already aware that he was set to start from the back of the grid, Ferrari positioned the Spaniard in Q3 to give Leclerc the opportunity to carry more speed than usual down into Turn Ten.
This alone improved Leclerc’s laptime considerably, with Marko predicting that Verstappen’s rival made up two-tenths from his team-mates assistance.
“It was always a tenth and a half or two tenths that they gained there,” the Austrian added.
“So the gap is not as drastic as it seems.”
To the Austrian side’s advantage, Sergio Pérez will start from P3, after recovering from a difficult start to the weekend.
The Mexican struggled on Friday and was well-off the pace of both the Ferraris and his team-mate; however, Pérez managed to successfully turn it around when it mattered.
It means Leclerc will have an RB18 in either mirror at the start of the race, giving Red Bull the opportunity to vary their strategy.
Unless Sainz can somehow get onto the back of the front trio quickly, then the odds potentially look against Leclerc to claim victory in France.
With Pérez in P3, Marko thinks the team are in a “good” position.
“From that point of view it’s a good starting position,” he conceded.