Charles the eighth: Sauber driver impresses at French GP

Water performance! Sauber driver Charles Leclerc in action at the Paul Ricard circuit on Saturday

Rising star Charles Leclerc added substantially to his fan club on Saturday when he qualified eighth in his Sauber for Sunday's French Grand Prix.

The highly-rated Monegasque driver stirred up widespread admiration for his efforts with four-time champions Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel both heaping praise on him.

Hamilton, who took pole position, said it was "very impressive, very, very impressive" to see Leclerc, a Ferrari academy protege, reach the top-ten shootout.

"There's a lot of pressure for him, being here in the south of France, so it's really, really good," said Hamilton. "I'm happy for him, particularly in that car.

"He's done a great job with what he has ?- probably even more, which is what you hope from a good driver."

Leclerc has been widely tipped to move to Ferrari next season as a replacement for Kimi Raikkonen, who started his career at Sauber, alongside Vettel.

The championship-leading German said: "Eighth is an impressive result. They are still quite a long way behind with the car.

"For him, he's doing the job. It's good for him, and for Sauber as well, to be up there and have a chance to score points."

Leclerc has scored points in three out of the last four Grands Prix.

He said: "It is just unbelievable, the best recovery I did from my career from one day to the other.

"Yesterday was a disaster. We changed the car completely. I have just had a smile since I passed Q3 and we all have to be very proud.

"I worked a lot with the engineers to see what the issues were last night. We did all the right things and I'm extremely happy."

Sauber team boss Frederic Vasseur said it was a "huge feeling" for the team to reach Q3 for the first time since the 2015 Chinese Grand Prix.

"For Charles, it's a special test because it's the first Q3 and P8 and in France. I think it's a great feeling for him."

Water performance! Sauber driver Charles Leclerc in action at the Paul Ricard circuit on Saturday