Lewis Hamilton has beaten his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by two and a half tenths to take pole position for the French Grand Prix. The Silver Arrows have set a new record for number of front row lockouts with seventy-eight.
This weekend the German manufacturer has been in a class of their own, enjoying a comfortable margin in practice and topped all three sessions. Hamilton looked unstoppable as his teammate struggled to step up to fight for pole, but at one point it was looking to be extremely tight.
Bottas set the early pace in Q3, but then Hamilton responded with a 28.4 before the Finn had a messy final lap. That put him ahead and broke last years qualifying record, giving Mercedes a third back to back front row lock out in France.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc struggled to make inroads into Mercedes pace, the Monacan finishing the session six tenths off Hamilton, the only one of the two Ferrari’s to be near the front of the pace. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fourth ahead of the McLaren’s.
Hamilton “It is not an easy track there is a lot of run-off areas and Valtteri has been quick all weekend. I am really happy that I got the potential out of the car.”
“The wind has been picking up and been gusty so you have to be dynamic with the track and I took a bit much into the last corner and the wind took the back end. We have been working hard on the engineering side – so overall great teamwork”
Bottas added, “The wind changed direction and there was a couple of corners my line didn’t work and I had to work it out but Lewis had a better lap. It’s been a really strong package we have here this weekend. It’s been enjoyable and it’s a nice run into turn one so hopefully, I can do something then.”
Leclerc said, “I am pretty happy with my lap but we need to keep working and I am pretty sure we will close the gap at one point but today this is the best we could have done. A good start will be very important and we are quite strong on the straights and they (Mercedes) are strong in the corners. So should be a good race.”
It was an extremely good session for the Woking team, out qualifying with both cars a Ferrari and Red Bull, Lando Norris just nine thousandths of a second off Verstappen, and the highest placed Renault powered cars for the French manufactures’ home race.
Norris told Sky Sports, “As a team, we have done very well. I am sure they are going to be tough to beat but we are ahead of who we need to be. I have heard rumours from Renault saying we have a secret upgrade. We weren’t expecting anything at all to be honest, but it has turned out better than we expected.”
Sebastian Vettel was only seventh, the German almost a second and a half off the outright pace and four tenths off teammate Leclerc. It was however not trouble free, he found it hard to get a lap together going off on his first run in Q3, then unable to get the lap together.
It is understood that he was forced to abandon his first run because of an up shift issue, leaving him not able sufficiently recover as he lapped a second and a half off pole and behind the McLarens.
Vettel’s former teammate Daniel Ricciardo was eighth, just over a tenth slower than Vettel and ahead of the second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly. It was an under performing day for the Frenchman, a full second off Verstappen.
Ricciardo’s teammate Nico Hulkenberg, was only thirteenth. A disappointing session for the teams home race, where they were looking to overtake McLaren and establish themselves as the midfield leaders.
The German driver final Q2 lap at the Turn 8/9 chicane and had to abandon his final lap. He finished just 0.2s behind Ricciardo, but that was enough to relegate him from the session.
Antonio Giovinazzi got Alfa through to Q3, one of two drivers not to get through on the medium which could harm them in the race. While Gasly was also lucky to get into the top ten, he made it through by only a tenth. He starts ahead of Alex Albon.
Sergio Perez was fourteenth ahead of Kevin Magnussen, as both Racing Point and Haas appear to be struggling this weekend. Both their teammates Lance Stroll and Kevin Magnussen knocked out in Q1, they start eighteenth and seventeenth.
Williams pair George Russell and Robert Kubica took up their customary positions at the bottom of the order, although Russell was half a second quicker than his teammate.