Formula One: Leclerc 'fighting for the win' in French GP, as Sainz faces grid penalty

Charles Leclerc in action during the first practice session ahead of the French grand prix. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LE CASTELLET, FRANCE (AFP) - Charles Leclerc believes he will be fighting for victory in Sunday's French Grand Prix after he and Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz dominated Friday's (July 22) opening practice day.

The 24-year-old Monegasque was second fastest behind the Spaniard, who faces a grid penalty of at least 10 places after taking a number of new power-train parts on his car, and therefore cannot start from pole position if he repeats his speed on Saturday.

"We have the pace in the car and if we focus on ourselves and if we do all ok, I am sure we will be fighting for the win," said Leclerc, who trimmed world champion Max Verstappen's lead in the title race to 38 points by winning in Austria two weeks ago.

"It was very warm today, for me and the car, so reliability is going to be important, but I am confident we will be ok."

Verstappen in a Red Bull was third fastest, but produced impressive long run speeds during practice.

Sainz, who claimed his maiden F1 victory at the British Grand Prix earlier this month, said: "It was a positive Friday. On the short run on low fuel my laps were very competitive and we made some good steps in the right direction."

Asked if he expected further penalties, with Ferrari considering changing more parts of his power unit, Sainz was evasive.

"We will see," he said.

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