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:
|4||33||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:31.531||1:30.818||1:30.705||20|
|5||3||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:31.910||1:31.538||1:30.895||20|
|11||31||Force India Mercedes||1:32.786||1:32.075||14|
|13||11||Force India Mercedes||1:32.692||1:32.454||15|
|14||10||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:32.447||1:32.460||17|
|17||28||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:33.025||10|
Embed from Getty Images