Notebook – French Qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton has beaten his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by a tenth of a second to take pole position for the French Grand Prix. Mercedes have looked strong all weekend, and they maintained their advantage throughout the session-topping all three sessions.

The four times champion set his fastest time during his first run in Q3 and that put him two tenths ahead of Bottas, and almost three tenths faster than Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

Pole Lap – L. Hamilton 01:30.29

Lewis Hamilton begins accelerating as he exits Virage du Pont, putting the power down on the outside on the long run to Verriere. He then heads to line his Mercedes down the middle of the track, keeps going all the way to the inside before breaking a 100m before Verriere. Running close to the apex before crossing to turn two. Going through the kink he carries speed until he breaks for Chicane. He hits the apexes and stays in low speed approaching five, that leads him through Saint Beaurne.

He then puts the power down on exit of the corner and through L’ecole, going onto the first part of the Mistral Straight. Carrying the speed to the chicane breaking, before hitting the apex, gets good exit putting the power down. Goes to the outside for Signes, backs off brief through Beausset running the car to the outside before returning to the apex.

Slows the car and crosses the track through Bendor, runs closes to the apex through Village and slow through Tour. Gets good exit carries speed through Virage du Pont and carries it across the line.

McLaren worst session of the season

McLaren had their worst qualifying of the season, after both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were both knocked out in Q1, which is the most disappointing result since switching to Renault power.

Alonso will start sixteenth and Vandoorne eighteenth, making them the slowest Renault powered cars. The team were one and a half seconds off both Red Bull’s, who use the same power unit and were also half a second off the pace of Pierre Gasly’s Honda-powered Toro Rosso.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Alonso said “Nothing went wrong – the performance is what it is. I’m two tenths in front of the most talented young driver of the last couple of years in Stoffel so this is the pace we have.

“On Saturday, after qualifying, I’m always here answering negative questions. The level of competitiveness is not at the point we want it.” And in a telling addition, Alonso insisted: “It’s not a big surprise. This car is slow and we are slipping back.”

McLaren need to begin delivering they blamed Honda for the lack of performance in recent years. But it is looking as if the team still lack downforce and straight-line speed, the team still is lacking aero performance.

Vandoorne added “It’s a very disappointing qualifying. To have both cars eliminated in Q1 was not what we came here for. We just lack a lot of pace. There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes investigating what is going wrong for us.”

Leclerc impresses

Charles Leclerc was one of the stand out performers in qualifying as he got his Sauber through to Q3 for the first time in his career. The Monacan will start eighth, two places behind the man he could replace at Ferrari next season, Kimi Raikkonen.

Four-time champions Hamilton and Vettel have previously tipped Leclerc for great things in F1 and Paul Ricard poleman Hamilton said it was “very, very impressive” to see him make Q3.

Hamilton said “There’s a lot of pressure for him, being here in the south of France, so it’s really, really good. 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.”

Vettel added: “I saw on the screen that Fred [Vasseur, Sauber boss] was happy so I knew one of his drivers did well in Q2. 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 chance to score points.”

Leclerc called his qualifying result “just unbelievable” and said it was “the best recovery” of his career from one day to the next, having finished more than a second from the top 10 in Friday practice.

Leclerc told Sky Sports, “Yesterday was a disaster, the car didn’t feel great and I was not driving very well. We changed the car completely today, I felt a lot better. I have no words to describe how I feel right now. We all should be proud, the team and I of what we achieved.”

Magnussen says Raikkonen is “erratic” and “confused”,

Kevin Magnussen has accused Kimi Raikkonen as being “desperate”, “erratic” and “confused”, saying the Ferrari driver ruined his best lap in Q3.

The Dane was on his final lap in Q3 after he failed to set a time after his teammate Romain Grosjean caused a red flag after crashing out. He got past Raikkonen but the Finn raced him on the main straight as his final timed lap began and got ahead once more into Turn 1, only to finally back out of his attempt.

Magnussen carried on but could do no better than ninth, 2.9s off the pace, and was left fuming at Raikkonen’s actions, asking his Haas team: “What the f**k is he doing?”

Asked about his anger on the radio, Magnussen said: “[I was] very upset. Because, what is he doing? He f****d all his laps, he had fuel for I don’t know how many laps, everyone else has fuel for one lap, so to begin with I thought he would box ’cause he f****d his lap.”

“And then he tries again immediately the lap after. Overtakes us, backed off again – then surely he’s going to box. But then he tries again. So it’s three laps in a row that he tried to push and it makes no sense. There’s no way to predict what he is going to do.”

“And then he obviously overtakes me into Turn 1, and f***s my lap, and doesn’t even complete his lap.”

The FIA stewards confirmed they would be investigating whether Raikkonen “unnecessarily impeded another driver”, and both he and Magnussen were summoned to the stewards.

Race Prixview

Tomorrow’s race I believe is going to be dominated by Mercedes who have shown strong performance all weekend. Mercedes should be able to break the tow on the back straight, and that will be key. We still have many unknowns as we haven’t raced here since 1990.

It’s a race Mercedes have never had any kind of win at in the modern era, its looking likely as historically this has been a power circuit which we have seen has been their strength in recent years. Ferrari will be there though!



Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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