F1: Hamilton leads Mercedes 1-2 in French GP Qualifying

Source: Twitter (@MercedesAMGF1)

Lewis Hamilton will be in Pole Position for tomorrow’s French Grand Prix, with Valtteri Bottas in the sister Mercedes alongside him on the front row.

The weather at Paul Ricard before qualifying had improved following the rain which featured in the final free practice session and the track had dried significantly.

In Q1, Max Verstappen’s Red Bull was the first of the frontrunners to post a lap time and did so with a 1:31.823, only for the Mercedes of reigning world champion Hamilton to go fastest on a 1:31.271.

Further down the order, McLaren’s newly-crowned Le Mans winner Fernando Alonso found himself in the drop zone in the final five minutes before briefly moving up to 13th place.

This contributed towards both Force India’s being at risk of not making into Q2.

Luckily for them, Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez recorded laps in the mid-1:32’s to go through and subsequently dropped Alonso to 16th.

The sister McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne struggled in 17th, with the Williams pair of Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll joining them, the latter of whom ran over the sausage kerbs at Turn 2.

Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso will bring up the back of the grid due to multiple component changes made to his engine.

The beginning of Q2 saw the drivers rush out as light rain slowly fell onto the track, with Hamilton putting his Silver Arrows on top with a 1:30.645; almost sixth tenths fastest than his Mercedes team-mate Bottas.

Both Red Bulls and the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel required a second run to move up the leader board, with Daniel Ricciardo reporting on the team radio than the rainfall was beginning to stabilise.

The field went out for once more as the track surface indicated signs of getting faster, whilst Haas’ Romain Grosjean had to take evasive action in the pit lane to avoid a collision with Sauber’s Charles Leclerc.

Leclerc then went on to go tenth fastest, pipping Ocon by 0.020 seconds.

Perez also failed to make the cut in 13th, with the Force Indias being sandwiched by the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg in 12th.

They were joined in the drop zone by Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) and Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) in 14th and 15th places respectively.

Q3 started with drizzle appearing in parts of the circuit, but this didn’t stop Hamilton who set the benchmark time of 1:30.222, with Bottas and Vettel not too far behind.

The red flag was then brought out with under eight minutes left when Grosjean crashed into the barriers after losing the car under braking for Turn 3, hampering Kevin Magnussen’s attempt in the second Haas in the process.

When the session restarted, Kimi Rӓikkӧnen was the first out on track for Ferrari and the Iceman ran wide on his outlap before aborting his run and settled for sixth place.

As the session came to an end, Bottas went quickest on a 1:30.147 before Hamilton claimed his 75th career pole position with a 1:30.029.

Speaking to former Formula 1 driver Franck Montagny, Hamilton discussed how the session was:

“That wasn’t too bad. The weather has been ok, it was much better earlier in the week. Q3 was not spectacular, but so, so.”

“It feels great to be back in France. It’s such a beautiful place. I got a great response from the crowd and I’m delighted to be here for the first time.”

Vettel went wide at Turn 6 during his final run and stayed third, ahead of the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo.

Behind Rӓikkӧnen, Carlos Sainz Jr. finished the session in seventh for Renault, ahead of an impressive Leclerc, Magnussen and Grosjean.

Pos. Car No. Driver (Nationality), Team (Session) Time
1 44 Lewis Hamilton (GBR), Mercedes AMG (Q3) 1:30.029
2 77 Valtteri Bottas (FIN), Mercedes AMG 1:30.147
3 5 Sebastian Vettel (DEU), Scuderia Ferrari 1:30.400
4 33 Max Verstappen (NLD), Red Bull Racing 1:30.705
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS), Red Bull Racing 1:30.895
6 7 Kimi Rӓikkӧnen (FIN), Scuderia Ferrari 1:31.057
7 55 Carlos Sainz Jr. (ESP), Renault 1:32.126
8 10 Charles Leclerc (MON), Sauber 1:32.635
9 20 Kevin Magnussen (DEN), Haas 1:32.930
10 8 Romain Grosjean (FRA), Haas No Time
11 31 Esteban Ocon (FRA), Force India (Q2) 1:32.075
12 27 Nico Hulkenberg (DEU), Renault 1:32.112
13 11 Sergio Perez (MEX), Force India 1:32.454
14 10 Pierre Gasly (FRA), Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:32.460
15 9 Marcus Ericsson (SWE), Sauber 1:32.820
16 14 Fernando Alonso (ESP), McLaren (Q1) 1:32.976
17 2 Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL), McLaren 1:33.162
18 35 Sergey Sirotkin (RUS), Williams 1:33.636
19 18 Lance Stroll (CDN), Williams 1:33.729
20 28 Brendon Hartley (NZL), Scuderia Toro Rosso Grid Penalty