A 'difficult' Friday for Ferrari at Paul Ricard but results 'expected'

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Ferrari admits a return to Formula 1's upper midfield was "expected" despite a difficult Friday at the French Grand Prix.

It was a tale of two sessions for the Italian team at Paul Ricard, who had neither car in the top 10 in Practice 1 before making solid improvements in the afternoon.

Charles Leclerc would ultimately end the day fifth fastest, splitting the two Alpines, but explained the very different challenge drivers were facing at Le Castellet.

“Just overall, with the car balance, it’s been a very difficult day for everyone,” Leclerc said.

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"I think, the wind is very, very strong, so it makes it quite tricky to drive, but it’s like this for everyone, so you just to try and find a way around it and I think in FP2 it was a little bit better.

"There’s still quite a bit of work to do, but we did quite a nice recovery from FP1, the car felt quite a bit better, so I’m happy with this.”

Of course, the Monegasque could claim a third straight pole position in qualifying on Saturday, but he realises that is a very unlikely prospect.

“Let’s say that this [P5] is more in line with what we expected here," he said. "I think Baku and Monaco were two weekends that were much better than what we expected and now we’re a bit more in line with what we expected.

“We thought we would be fighting with McLaren, Alpine and AlphaTauri and that’s the case for tomorrow.”

Teammate Carlos Sainz highlighted the impact of the wind with a high-speed spin off the track at Turn 2 during the morning.

The Spaniard though would eventually end the day in P8, less than two-tenths behind Leclerc.

“The feeling with the car has been actually decent,” he commented.

“The problem is that we know that coming into this layout, this kind of track, we were not going to be as good as in Baku or Monaco. So we’re a bit back to reality, but at the same time, pleased to see that the car balance is not too far away.”

On his spin, Sainz explained: “The problem is that the wind is coming from the worst possible direction for this circuit, which means you have a headwind in all the straights, so you’re slow in all the straights and then you get a tailwind in all the corners.

"It makes it challenging, it makes it slower also compared to 2019, when we had the wind coming from the opposite side and it makes it quite inconsistent, easy to make mistakes, but it’s the same for everyone, so hopefully we can adapt better,” he concluded.