Charles Leclerc believes Ferrari have made "the best decision" by accepting a 10-place grid penalty for the Canadian Grand Prix.

Leclerc will start towards the back of the grid in Montreal after taking a new control electronic – his third used this season.

The Monegasque had little choice given the state of his power unit after the Azerbaijan GP, although it could have been the source of some frustration after he finished just 0.081 seconds behind Max Verstappen in FP2.

"Well, obviously I'm starting a little bit more in the back," Leclerc said. "But I think it was the best decision to make, so let's see how it goes.

"The overtaking was a little bit more difficult than I expected today, but the pace is there, so hopefully we can come back to where we want to be."

Indeed, despite championship leader Verstappen topping the charts in both Friday practice sessions, Leclerc added: "It is pretty close.

"The race pace we need to work on – I mean it's a bit difficult to have a clear picture, because I was on a different compound all the time – but overall, it didn't look too bad, so that's good."

Ferrari's recent issues with reliability have put a major dent in their driver's and constructor's title hopes, but they will need to quickly bounce back at this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix.

It was a painful day for the Scuderia at the Azerbaijan GP on Sunday, with both cars retiring due to technical issues.

For Charles Leclerc, it was the second time in three races he was forced out because of a power unit problem while leading, and the fourth consecutive race where he failed to convert pole position into a race win.

Sergio Perez took full advantage in Baku, moving ahead of Leclerc in the driver's standings with his win, with Max Verstappen opening up a 34-point gap to the Ferrari driver.

With two retirements sandwiching Ferrari's strategic blunder at his home race in Monaco, the Monegasque moves to four wins from 15 pole positions, with only Jarno Trulli holding a lower conversion rate (25 per cent) among winning drivers in the history F1.

Meanwhile, only Michael Schumacher (+23) and Alain Prost (+18) have a higher differential between race wins and pole positions than Max Verstappen, who has claimed 25 and 14 respectively.

Verstappen will already be making his 150th GP appearance at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, looking for his sixth win of the season out of nine starts.

It would provide little solace to the 24-year-old but he has been in supreme form on the Saturday, claiming six poles out of eight this season, and could match his highest tally in a single season from 2019.

Pole position is not essential but it has proved to be convenient in recent years, with each of the past five winners in Montreal coming from the front of grid on the Saturday, the longest such streak in F1.

Since the opening race of the season in Bahrain, Ferrari remain one more one-two finish away from surpassing Mercedes for the most all-time in F1, with both on 82.

Ferrari customers facing similar strife

Problems have persisted for the factory team and Ferrari power unit customers since the first upgrade at the Miami Grand Prix, where Zhou Guanyu retired.

Both he and Leclerc then retired from the Spanish GP, after Valtteri Bottas was forced out of FP2 in the other Alfa Romeo due to an engine failure.

Both Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen experienced MGU-K failures in Monaco, before Leclerc, Magnussen and Zhou had power unit-related DNFs in Baku.

Red Bull in control

After rectifying their own reliability issues at the start of the season, Red Bull have picked up the pieces and are now in control of both championships.

Red Bull drivers have finished on the podium in 11 of their 13 finished races, securing the one-two in three of the last five Grands Prix and are one more from securing the highest tally in a single season.

The last time the team had six wins in the opening eight races of the season was when Sebastian Vettel coasted his way to the driver's title in 2011.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 150
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 129
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 116
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 99
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 83

Constructors

1. Red Bull 279
2. Ferrari 199
3. Mercedes 161
4. McLaren 65
5. Alpine 47

Charles Leclerc is desperate to "finish the job" after surging to pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. 

In Baku on Sunday, the Ferrari driver will start from the front of the grid for the fourth successive grand prix. 

Leclerc has failed to turn each of his previous three pole positions into a victory, something that has become a familiar story for the Monegasque. 

From his 14 pole positions in Formula One, he has managed just four victories (29 per cent) – only Jarno Trulli (25 per cent – one win from four poles) has a worse ratio among drivers to have topped the podium at least once. 

Leclerc is keen to avoid another disappointment and believes upgrades made by Ferrari can help him get over the line this time. 

"I just want to finish the job. The past two weekends I've already said that on the Saturday and it didn't happen on the Sunday," said Leclerc. 

"So, we need to make it… I mean, we don't need to make it work but it will be very nice if we make it work. Let's see how it goes in the first few laps, and then I will try to keep the lead.   

"I think since we have the new package, we've tried different things. And from my feeling it feels better in the race. But we still need to confirm it. But the feeling is there and it's good, so I'm optimistic." 

Verstappen qualified third for the second successive Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Last year he crashed out from the lead with three laps remaining, handing Sergio Perez the win. 

The reigning champion does not expect to make his move early but still believes he will be in with a good shot of a fourth victory in five races. 

"I think last year I started third here, so a lot of things happen. If you have good pace, I do think you can do something out there in the race," said Verstappen. 

"We'll just look through the data to optimise everything and make sure that the car is good on the tyres. 

"The run to Turn 1 is super short, so there's not a lot you can do there, but it's a long race. Baku has shown that a lot of things happen. We just need to stay calm and focus on having a good race car." 

Charles Leclerc stormed to pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, surprising himself by getting the better of the Red Bulls.

Leclerc produced a sensational final lap in Baku to become the first Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher in 2001 to record six pole positions in the first eight races of a season. 

He was almost three tenths of a second faster than Sergio Perez, who pipped team-mate Max Verstappen to a place on the front row. 

"It feels good. Obviously all poles feel good, but this one I did not expect because in Q1 and Q2 I really struggled to see that we could be faster," said Leclerc. 

"In the last lap everything came together and I managed to do good, so I'm extremely happy. 

"I'm really excited for [the race]. Tyre management is a big thing here. In Barcelona and Monaco we were managing it well but overall our race pace has gone a step up since we brought in the upgrades." 

Championship leader Verstappen was disappointed to miss out on a place on the front row but is confident Red Bull will be able to challenge for the win on Sunday. 

"I think the start was good, then it went away from me a little bit with tiny mistakes," said Verstappen. 

"It's not ideal but in general I was just struggling to find balance over one lap. It's not what I want but being second and third the team has a good opportunity. 

"We'll find out tomorrow, but we maybe seem to lack a bit of pace over one lap but in the long run we should be quite good." 

Perez, who experienced an issue in the garage in Q3, said: "On the first run of Q3 is when you go all out. I hit the wall a couple of times – luckily we managed to survive, which is the key here. 

"We had a problem with the engine at the end, we couldn't turn it on. We lost a few tenths, but I think Charles has done a very good job. 

"It's a very long race ahead, so we just have to make sure we are there. You can make a mistake at any point and that's it." 

Lewis Hamilton could only qualify seventh and was facing an investigation for driving unnecessarily slowly in Q2.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:41.359
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.282s
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.347s
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.455s
5. George Russell (Mercedes) +1.353s
6. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.486s
7. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1.565s
8. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1.697s
9. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.732s
10. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1.814s

Sebastian Vettel does not believe there has been a "changing of the guard" in Formula One, saying older drivers would thrive with "the right tools" 

Max Verstappen won his first F1 world title last season, dethroning Lewis Hamilton in the most dramatic fashion in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

Red Bull's Verstappen leads Charles Leclerc by nine points in the battle for the 2022 title, with the 37-year-old Hamilton sixth.

Vettel, 34, has picked up only five points for Aston Martin, while the 40-year-old Fernando Alonso having 10 points to his name

Verstappen, Leclerc and George Russell – all aged 24 – have emerged as a new generation of drivers with long careers ahead of them.

Four-time F1 champion Vettel says they are fortunate to have cars that enable them to challenge for victories. 

Asked about the young drivers coming through, the German told Stats Perform: "I think it very much depends how competitive your environment is.

"Obviously, usually you're saying that there's a changing of the guard, Lewis has been arguably fighting for the title until the very last lap last year, so it's not too long ago.

"I think it depends always on the situation you're in for sure. There's drivers that are a little bit older like Fernando and Lewis then myself, but I'm sure that you give us the right tools, we still can do the right work."

Vettel hopes Ferrari can give Leclerc every chance of winning his first F1 title.

He said: "Obviously, Charles is one of them and in a good car he deserves to be up there. Hopefully the car will be good enough for him to fight for the title this year until the end.

"We will see, throughout the field you have more that one or two drivers that will be able to battle for victories.

"But usually the right drivers get the right package at the right time, so I'm very happy for him and hopefully he has the car to do it until the end."

 

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Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto admitted team strategy halted Charles Leclerc from triumphing at his home race, with Red Bull's Sergio Perez winning the Monaco Grand Prix.

Leclerc finished in fourth place after starting the race from pole position, which is critical at a circuit like Monte Carlo, with its tight streets making overtaking difficult and track position paramount.

Perez managed to keep Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari at bay with an assured drive, but it was also borne of circumstance after a pit-stop mix-up before a second red flag tumbled Leclerc down the order.

Binotto conceded it was a team error that cost his drivers from claiming more points but specifically for Leclerc, a potential maiden Formula One win at a home race where he has been dealt constant bad luck.

"I fully understand the disappointment for Charles," the Ferrari boss told Sky Sports F1. "He was first and finishing fourth means that something was wrong in the decision we made.

"So clearly we need to review it and I think we underestimated the speed of the intermediate [tyres] at that stage, so we could have called a lap earlier for Charles or later on, maybe we should have left him outside on the extreme wet then going on the dry.

"These are mistakes that may happen, but more importantly it is a lesson to learn to try and understand why they happened and I am sure that is a process we will do."

Ferrari went down a further ten points in the constructor standings to Red Bull, who now lead by 36 points after both Perez and Max Verstappen finished on the podium.

Leclerc's fourth-placed finish also means Verstappen extended his lead atop the driver's standings to nine points, heading into the next grand prix in Azerbaijan.

Charles Leclerc could not understand Ferrari's strategy during the Monaco Grand Prix, as he lost ground on Formula One leader Max Verstappen.

Leclerc finished fourth in his home race on Sunday after an eventful, rain-soaked grand prix.

Ferrari had closed out the front of the grid and seemed all set to go on and claim a big win, but Red Bull's Sergio Perez clinched victory.

Carlos Sainz finished second ahead of Verstappen to restore some pride for Ferrari, but the Dutchman's lead in the driver's standings grew to four points over Leclerc.

Some strange tactical decisions cost Ferrari, who delayed putting Leclerc on intermediate tyres before then accidentally instructing the Monegasque driver to come in and change to slicks.

Before Ferrari realised their error, Leclerc had already entered the pit lane, allowing Verstappen to overtake him and hold on for a place on the podium.

"Let down is not the word," Leclerc told reporters.

"Sometimes mistakes can happen – but there have been too many mistakes.

"I'm used to getting back home disappointed but we cannot do that, especially in a moment now where we are extremely strong.

"We need to take opportunities. I love my team. We will come back stronger, but it hurts a lot.

"We cannot afford to lose so many points like this. It's not even from first to second, it's from first to fourth because after the first mistakes we've done another one.

"I don't understand what made us change our minds. We got undercut and then stuck behind Carlos [Sainz]. There were a lot of mistakes and we cannot afford to do that.

"The first [radio message for the first pit stop] was a clear decision and a very wrong one. From that moment onwards, the mess started.

"I don't know if it was panic – I don't hear all the background stuff between the team so it's not up to me to judge.

"The last message I had was not clear because I was told to come in and then to stay out but I was already in the pit lane and that's when I let it out on the radio and screamed because I knew it was done."

Sergio Perez won an extraordinary Monaco Grand Prix as Charles Leclerc endured more misery in his home race on Sunday.

Perez claimed his first victory on the streets of Monte Carlo ahead of Carlos Sainz after a late start due to heavy rain and the loss of further time following a big crash for Mick Schumacher, who was fortunate to walk away unharmed.

Leclerc had started on pole but could only finish fourth after paying the price for poor Ferrari pit-stop strategies and so Max Verstappen extended his lead over the Monegasque to nine points in the battle for the title after taking third.

Verstappen’s Red Bull-mate Perez took the chequered flag in the sun on lap 64, as there was not enough time to complete the full 77 in the Principality as a result of the poor weather earlier in the day.

There was eventually a rolling start behind the safety car an hour and 10 minutes after the race was due to begin, with the red flag having earlier been waved during a deluge.

Leclerc maintained his lead ahead of team-mate Sainz on a drying track ahead of a Red Bull duo of Perez and Verstappen.

Perez pitted from fourth place for a set of intermediate tyres before both Leclerc and Verstappen came in for intermediates.

Leclerc was not happy when he was called in again at the same time as Sainz for hard tyres only three laps later, with Red Bull also opting for a double stack soon after and it was Perez who was leading after a string of pit stops.

The second-placed Sainz produced a great save to avoid crashing into the barriers on a wet part of the track, but the virtual safety car was deployed and subsequently another red flag following a big smash for Schumacher on lap 26.

Leclerc found himself in fourth behind Verstappen following some puzzling decision-making from the Scuderia and there were only 40 minutes of racing to go when the race restarted again on a significantly drier track.

Mexican Perez fended off Sainz to celebrate his first victory of the season. George Russell was fifth, with his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton only eighth behind Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso.

Charles Leclerc is confident hs Ferrari can secure him a maiden win at his home race, after qualifying on pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday.

On a circuit where track position is critical, Ferrari took the front row of the grid for Sunday's race with Carlos Sainz finishing in second behind Leclerc after Q3 was halted by a red flag.

Sergio Perez hit the barrier at Portier, and Sainz could not react quickly enough to avoid a collision, when Leclerc was on track to beat his then-provisional pole time.

Ultimately, it secured the Monegasque driver top spot, and he was in high spirits afterwards following his second consecutive pole.

"I am very pleased with our overall performance so far this weekend," Leclerc said. "I felt confident in the car and started pushing a bit more in Q3. The first lap was good. I think that the second was one of the best laps I have ever done in qualifying.

"It was so much fun to drive, and I was really on the limit. I had a lot of oversteer, so the rear was quite loose. Still, I knew that the lap was coming together nicely and that felt particularly good.

"It’s a shame that I couldn’t finish it, but this is Monaco, and we know that the final attempt is always at risk of yellow or red flags. We secured pole anyway, so I am really happy.

"Whatever the conditions are tomorrow, we will start from the best place possible and will do everything to finish the weekend as smoothly as it has gone so far."

Max Verstappen finished in fourth, continuing his fight to find pace at low-speed corners from the Thursday and Friday practice sessions.

The reigning world champion finished almost three tenths of a second off Leclerc's pole time and could have been further off the pace had his rival finished his second hot lap.

"In general, my pace this weekend has been a bit of a struggle, I never really found the perfect balance," Verstappen said. "We were on for a good final lap in Q3, I was pushing to the limit on the last lap until I got to the corner, where I hit a little traffic jam.

"It was very unfortunate as I think we could have done better than fourth – not pole position, because I think that Charles is too far ahead. I think we could have at least got second place"

Charles Leclerc was "incredibly happy" to claim pole position in Monaco Grand Prix qualifying, leading a Ferrari one-two – although Carlos Sainz felt he could have pipped his team-mate if not for a dramatic crash.

Monegasque driver Leclerc qualified fastest at his home race after the final session was cut short due to a red flag.

Sergio Perez hit the barrier, prompting a yellow flag that Sainz saw only in time to brake as he careered into the Red Bull.

That brought a premature end to proceedings but ensured a fine result for Ferrari and, in particular, Leclerc, who secured a precious pole; while he has converted only four of his 13 previous poles into wins, some 15 of the past 17 winners in Monaco have started from the front row, including 12 from first place.

For Leclerc to add his name to the list of winners, he will have to overcome an awful record which has seen him never manage to finish the Monaco race. Despite taking pole last year, his car also crashed heavily in qualifying, and it meant Leclerc could not take an active part on race day.

This time it could be a different story.

"It is very special. I'm so incredibly happy," Leclerc said. "It's been a very smooth weekend until now – I knew the pace was in the car; I just had to do the job, and it went perfectly.

"That last lap, before the red flag, was really, really good, but it didn't change anything for us."

That may be true for Leclerc, but Sainz felt he was on course to top the timesheets prior to the collision with Perez.

"It's a shame – another year that a red flag cost us the end of a session, and we could not go for pole position," he said, "but it's typical Monaco."

Sainz added: "I think we are in a great position to score a great result for the team. The car has been amazing all weekend, so we'll go for it."

Perez still qualified in third, ahead of an out-of-sorts Max Verstappen, while Lewis Hamilton's practice woes shifted only enough for him to make eighth before his final flying lap was halted.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:11.376
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.225s
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.253s
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.290s
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.473s
6. George Russell (Mercedes) +0.736s
7. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0.871s
8. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1.184s
9. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.356s
10. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +1.671s

Formula One has arrived at the most prestigious race on the calendar, and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc would be desperate to end an awful run of form at his home race.

Born and raised in Monaco, Leclerc's string of bad luck on the historic circuit dates back to his days in Formula Two, where he set the F2 lap record in 2017 before suspension problems caused a DNF.

The next year, in F1, he was in the points for Sauber before brake failure led to a crash with Brendan Hartley.

After poor strategy and Q1 elimination in his first Monaco Grand Prix for Ferrari in 2019, Leclerc charged up the field early on but pushed a little too hard and collided with Romain Grosjean at Rascasse.

In 2021, he surprisingly stuck an inferior Ferrari on pole position but crashed at the end of Q3, and extensive drive-shaft damage led to him cruelly retiring on the formation lap.

The 24-year-old became the first Monegasque to claim pole, but his three DNFs – from as many F1 entries – are his most at any circuit.

Despite ending up in the barriers on a demonstration lap in Niki Lauda's Ferrari last week, another pole could finally put Leclerc on the top step in his home race.

Twelve of the past 17 winners at Monaco have started from pole, as little room to overtake with bigger cars on Monte Carlo's notoriously tight streets makes track position critical.

It would be a welcome way for Leclerc to buck his trend of failing to convert poles into race victories, winning only four times from 13 starts at the front of the grid.

The title race adds another dimension, with Max Verstappen taking a six-point lead from him in the drivers' standings after successive victories at Imola, Miami and Barcelona.

In-form Red Bull with records in sight

Monaco has been a happy hunting ground for Red Bull, and this weekend could bring a number of records for the team.

This weekend could see Red Bull claim their highest number of race wins (six), pole positions (six), podiums (24, with both drivers) and points earned at a circuit, surpassing the 356 collected in Spain.

Meanwhile, reigning world champion Verstappen has the chance to record the longest winning streak of his career, beating last year's three wins between France and Austria.

Ricciardo in need of renaissance

Daniel Ricciardo has come under criticism from McLaren team principal Zak Brown for his recent performances, with a clear need for improvement.

The 32-year-old suffered one of the lowest points of his career last year in Monte Carlo, when he was lapped by teammate Lando Norris.

Ricciardo is suffering his worst streak of finishes outside the points (three) since 2012, when he had five consecutive empty-handed returns for Toro Rosso.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 110
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 104
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 85
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 74
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 65

Constructors

1. Red Bull 195
2. Ferrari 169
3. Mercedes 120
4. McLaren 50
5. Alfa Romeo 39

Max Verstappen recovered from an early spin to win a dramatic Spanish Grand Prix and take the championship lead after Charles Leclerc retired.

Leclerc looked set to increase his advantage over Verstappen in searing heat at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but the Ferrari driver's race was over when he lost power while leading comfortably on lap 23.

Verstappen had been in the gravel on lap nine and also suffered DRS issues, but the Dutchman led a Red Bull one-two for his third consecutive win to move above Leclerc in the driver standings after Sergio Perez let him through under team orders on lap 49 of 66.

George Russell finished third, with his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton worked his way back through the field to take fifth place behind Carlos Sainz despite suffering a puncture on the first lap.

Leclerc got a good start to retain his lead, but Hamilton's miserable start to the season was summed up when his he made contact with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen - who went into the gravel - at Turn 4 on the opening lap.

Hamilton limped to the pits with a front-left puncture and was told to continue after suggesting over the team radio that he retires from the race, having returned to the track in 19th place.

Sainz was back in 11th after spinning off at Turn 4 on lap seven and Verstappen was in the gravel at the same section of the circuit two laps later, dropping back from second to fourth.

Russell pitted from second place and Verstappen was also called in on lap 14, with Leclerc leading by over nine seconds.

Verstappen was furious as he was hampered by DRS issues attempting to pass Russell, who fended the Dutchman off to keep second place as they went wheel-to-wheel.

It was all going so well for Leclerc until he lost power with a win there for the taking and Perez soon passed Russell on fresher tyres to take the lead after Verstappen pitted for a new set of softs.

Verstappen was out in front on lap 38 after team-mate Perez and Russell pitted for mediums, then a quick stop for the defending champion put him back on track in third place behind his team-mate.

Perez allowed Verstappen to pass him under team orders and there were no further twists in a pulsating race, with a surging Hamilton passing Sainz to finish fourth until a late technical issue caused him to concede the place back.

Carlos Sainz declared he is "ready to fight for it" as the man from Madrid chases Spanish Grand Prix glory on Sunday.

The Ferrari driver, 27, has had nine podium finishes in his career but has yet to take the top step, and doing so at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya would be ideal.

Ferrari have won this race 12 times previously, secured 38 podium finishes and earned a record 485 points, and it will be up to Sainz and pole-sitter Charles Leclerc to follow the illustrious example of Prancing Horse greats of years gone by.

Sainz has collected points in each of his seven Spanish Grand Prix appearances, finishing between sixth and ninth each time.

He has loftier ambitions for Sunday's race after qualifying in third position, behind Leclerc and last year's champion Max Verstappen, but knows that however well he might drive, other factors will come into the equation, not least how the tyres cope in the sizzling Barcelona heat.

"I think there's two key aspects," Sainz said. "There's the start and the tyre management that you need to get right to win here. Strategy, obviously being more than one stop, will be key also.

"There's many things in a 66-lap race that can happen. I'm ready to fight for it. Ready to get a good start, ready to try to get ahead. Ready to try and push from there."

Referring to team-mate Leclerc and Red Bull's Verstappen, who have respectively won twice and three times in the five races held so far this season, Sainz accepted both were a hard act to match.

The home favourite said: "Obviously, these guys have proved they have very good pace [on Saturday] and recently, but I think anything's possible."

This is the 52nd Spanish Grand Prix and the 32nd to be staged at this particular circuit. Of the previous 31 winners at the race's current home, some 28 have started on the front row. Two have come from the second row, while only Fernando Alonso, who started from fifth in 2013, has gone on to win from further back on the grid.

Sainz has observed the rear of his car is "very light" and suggested that consequently he was having to curb his natural instincts.

Ferrari racing director Laurent Mekies urged caution about race prospects, saying rival teams might prove more competitive than proved the case in qualifying.

"And I think that any aspect, from the start to tyre degradation, which will probably be the highest we have seen so far this season, could make the difference," Mekies said.

Charles Leclerc recovered from a Q3 spin to take pole as Max Verstappen was left to rue a DRS failure in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix. 

Ferrari driver Leclerc span out at turn 14 on his first flying lap but produced an immense time with his next and only completed attempt, to ensure he will start from the front of the grid. 

All four of the Monegasque driver's Formula One victories have come after starting on pole. Some 28 of the past 31 winners at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya qualified on the front row.

Verstappen aborted his final lap after reporting a loss of power, with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner confirming to Sky Sports that was due to a DRS issue. 

The Dutchman will consequently start from second, with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz in third.

"I feel good. It was a difficult session, especially in Q3 because I made a mistake in the first run and then only had one lap," said Leclerc.

"But it went extremely well, I had a few moments but made it stick and very happy with pole position. It was a very good lap and the car was amazing too, so very happy.

"We've been struggling with tyres in the last few races compared to Red Bull, so Max is just behind. If we don't manage those tyres we will lose that advantage, so we need to get on top of it.

"I hope we can do a one-two. It will be great for the team and we will give it our all."

Verstappen acknowledged he may not have been able to beat Leclerc's time but still felt second was a good return for the team.

"It's always difficult to tell, I couldn't do my final run. Either the DRS didn't open or I just lost power," he said.

"It's a bit of a shame, but overall to be on the front row here looking at the whole weekend here, it's a good achievement, but I'd have liked to go for that final run.

"Hopefully, our car will be a bit kinder on the tyres again, but it's difficult to tell at the moment."

Sainz added: "I think everything is possible tomorrow. We are definitely going to try our best to get ahead at the start and lead from there, but it wasn't the ideal qualifying because I couldn't set a good lap on the used tyre."

George Russell was fourth and Lewis Hamilton qualified sixth as Mercedes' record run of nine straight poles in Barcelona came to an end.

Mick Schumacher will start 10th after making it through to Q3 for the first time in his career, while home favourite Fernando Alonso was eliminated in Q1 alongside the two controversially remodelled Aston Martins.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:18.750
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.323s
3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.416s
4. George Russell (Mercedes) +0.643s
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.670s
6. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.762s
7. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) +0.858s
8. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +0.932s
9. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1.547s
10. Mick Schumacher (Haas) +1.618s

The drivers' and constructors' championships both heating up as Formula One makes its seasonal return to Europe seems fitting. 

After legs in the Middle East, Australia and North America, Red Bull are comprehensively in the fight against Ferrari heading into this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

With consecutive race wins at the Emilia Romagna GP and Miami GP following DNFs in Bahrain and Australia, Max Verstappen has closed the gap to standings leader Charles Leclerc to 19 points.

After coming perilously close to such an error at Imola, a single mistake or DNF for Leclerc and a full points haul for Verstappen could see momentum in the drivers' championship completely shift.

Barcelona is a happy hunting ground for Verstappen, who claimed victory there in 2016 in only his first drive for Red Bull.

It could continue if the reigning world champion secures pole position, having converted 14 career poles into 10 race victories, the best rate of any driver in F1 history.

Meanwhile, with Sergio Perez also contributing with solid driving and good race pace on Sunday, Red Bull have cut the gap in the constructors' standings to only six points.

Only in Monaco have the team collected more points than in Spain, with 332 compared to 312, but that could change this weekend.

With a fifth consecutive top-four finish, Perez could equal his best such run of results, recorded between Turkey and Qatar last season.

Ferrari set for upgrades

The gravity of Red Bull's resurgence could arguably be crystallised in the likelihood Ferrari will have upgrades installed for this weekend after only tinkering and researching on race weekends to this point.

Leclerc will be looking to lead from the front, with all four of his race wins in F1 coming from pole position.

Carlos Sainz will also be hoping for a strong finish at his home grand prix, where he has accumulated the most points (40) in his career alongside Monaco.

Can Mercedes challenge?

While they might not be a championship contender in either the drivers' or constructors' standings, Mercedes have at least shown improved performance to potentially challenge for podiums and race wins.

The Silver Arrows come into this contest having taken the past nine pole positions in Barcelona, and they will likely need to make it another to challenge on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton is still waiting to surpass Michael Schumacher for the most consecutive seasons with a race win.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 104
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 85
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 66
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 59 
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 53

Constructors

1. Ferrari 157
2. Red Bull 151
3. Mercedes 95
4. McLaren 46
5. Alfa Romeo 31

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