LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 23: Top three qualifiers Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP and Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari celebrate in parc ferme during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 23, 2018 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes topped all three Qualifying sessions of the French GP to take his 75th career pole. He will be joined on the front row by his teammate Valtteri Bottas. Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari and Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing will slot behind them on the second row of the grid. Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen rounded off the top-six positions in qualification.

Lewis Hamilton Takes his 75th Career Pole

Q1: McLaren’s woes mount while Sauber excels

The first session of qualifying started in relatively sunny conditions with air temperatures at 22 degrees C and track temperatures at 30 degrees C. This was in contrast to an almost washed out FP3 earlier in the day. Hamilton topped the session with a lap of 1:31 .271s.

But the bigger story of the session was the elimination of both McLaren cars in Q1. Another nadir hit by the team after the recent “Freddo-Gate” controversy. Points to ponder for their talismanic lead driver – Fernando Alonso, who had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race less than a week back. Both the Sauber cars did exceedingly well to get into Q2.

The other eliminations in Q1 were the usual suspects – Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin of Williams. Stroll had a spectacular off-track moment, with almost all his four wheels in the air. Beleaguered Brendon Hartley, who was already set for a penalty due to engine issues, was the other driver in dropzone.

Q2: Charles Leclerc stars with a great lap

Most leading cars started the session on the red-striped supersoft tyres except for the Ferraris. A slight drizzle had also started returning to the Paul Ricard circuit. There was a close fight to stay out of the dropzone between the Force Indias, Saubers and Renaults. Nico Hulkenberg was surprisingly off-colour. The prodigal Charles Leclerc starred with a lap that took the Sauber team into Q3 for the first time in more than two years. Hamilton once again topped with a time of 1:30.645.

Both the Haas drivers were looking good to get into Q3, with Grosjean having a slight edge over his teammate. Drivers eliminated apart from Hulkenberg were Esteban Ocon, Sergio Perez, Pierre Gasly and Marcus Ericsson.

Q3: Grosjean’s jinx continues as Hamilton takes pole

The final qualifying session had all cars on the stickiest Pirelli tyre – ultrasofts. Grosjean had looked good all weekend at his home Grand Prix before once again succumbing to a spin and crash to end his dream run, and caused the session to be red-flagged.

Kimi Raikkonen messed up once again in Q3 to end P6. Bottas looked on track to grab his first pole of the season, before Hamilton nailed a great lap of 1:30.029 to claim his first pole in France. Vettel tried hard, but could end up only P3. Carlos Sainz did well to claim P7 for the first time this season, ahead of Charles Leclerc and Kevin Magnussen.

A possible Mercedes domination on the cards on Sunday

With both Mercedes drivers comfortably ahead on the grid, the fight between Ferrari and Red Bull is expected to be for the next best in the race. The Paul Ricard circuit at Le Castellet in France is new territory for most drivers on the grid, which might cause some mistakes which will spice up the race. Watch out for race day as the F1 caravan returns to France after a decade and it should be a historic one.

The complete Qualifying time-sheet:

Pos No Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:31.271 1:30.645 1:30.029 19
2 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:31.776 1:31.227 1:30.147 17
3 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:31.820 1:30.751 1:30.400 22
4 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:31.531 1:30.818 1:30.705 20
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:31.910 1:31.538 1:30.895 20
6 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:31.567 1:30.772 1:31.057 22
7 55 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:32.394 1:32.016 1:32.126 23
8 16 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 1:32.538 1:32.055 1:32.635 22
9 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:32.169 1:31.510 1:32.930 24
10 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:32.083 1:31.472 DNF 20
11 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1:32.786 1:32.075 14
12 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:32.949 1:32.115 15
13 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:32.692 1:32.454 15
14 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 1:32.447 1:32.460 17
15 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:32.804 1:32.820 18
16 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 1:32.976 10
17 28 Brendon Hartley Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 1:33.025 10
18 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 1:33.162 10
19 35 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 1:33.636 9
20 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:33.729 10

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