Hamilton scores 75th career pole position

Lewis Hamilton achieved his 75th career pole position in Formula 1 by beating Valtteri Bottas by 0.118 seconds to lead a Mercedes one-two in qualifying for the French Grand Prix on the sport’s return to Paul Ricard.

Mercedes looked strong during the practice sessions, and had the advantage throughout a qualifying hour during which rain threatened and fell lightly but never seriously impacted conditions.

Hamilton took control of the Q3 top ten shootout by posting a lap time of one minute, 30.222 seconds on ultrasofts on his first run, putting him a tenth ahead of Bottas and almost two tenths clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

That was before the session was stopped thanks to Haas driver Romain Grosjean crashing at the long Turn 4 left-hander.

Grosjean is not having a good season so far, so many crashes and incidents…

When the session restarted, Vettel was unable to improve on his earlier lap of one minute, 30.400 seconds, meaning it was a battle between the two Mercedes drivers.

Bottas, running ahead on track, jumped to top spot with a lap of one minute, 30.147 seconds, only for Hamilton to reclaim pole position for good with a one minute, 30.029 seconds.

Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were fourth and fifth for Red Bull Racing, with the former almost seven tenths off pole, but ahead of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari.

Raikkonen posted his time of one minute, 31.057 seconds before the red flag, but when he headed out to improve had an oversteer moment into Turn 4 and was unable to improve.

Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo and Verstappen will all start the French Grand Prix using supersoft Pirellis, having used the slower tyres to set their Q2 times.

Ferrari, by contrast, ran in Q2 with the ultrasofts that were favoured by everyone else throughout qualifying on both Vettel and Raikkonen’s car.

Carlos Sainz Jr took best-of-the rest honours for Renault in seventh place, just over a second slower than Raikkonen.

Sauber rookie star Charles Leclerc reached Q3 for the first time in his Formula 1 career and beat Haas driver Kevin Magnussen to eighth place.

Grosjean was classified tenth after failing to set a time during Q3 thanks to the shunt on his first flying lap.

The Haas driver spun at the exit of the Turn 3 right-hander after the rear stepped out and slid nose-first into the Turn 4 barrier, reporting he was unable to engage reverse to recover.

Esteban Ocon was the fastest of those eliminated in Q2 amid some very light drizzle thanks to being bumped by Leclerc moments after jumping up into the top ten with his final flier.

Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg was also eliminated despite his late improvement, ending up just six hundredths off the top ten despite what he described as “a very good lap”.

That put him ahead of the second Force India of Sergio Perez and Piere Gasly’s Toro Rosso.

Marcus Ericsson was P15 for Sauber and did well to reach Q3 having crashed during free practice session.

As a result, he missed second practice and then was limited to just three laps in final practice thanks to rain before qualifying.

McLaren produced its worst qualifying performance of the season, with both of its cars eliminated in Q1.

Fernando Alonso’s late lap was only good enough for P16, 0.027 seconds slower than Hulkenberg and half-a-tenth ahead of the Toro Rosso of Brendon Hartley.

Such a contrast to Alonso when racing in France. A week ago, scored pole position and won the famous endurance race Le Mans for Toyota in the WEC. As for Formula 1, it was back to reality. This was a real struggle for the McLaren driver.

Hartley will start at the back of the grid thanks to taking new engine components in the morning, and complained that wind, traffic and some spots of rain late in Q1 compromised his run.

Stoffel Vandoorne was P18 fastest in the second McLaren, ahead of Williams duo Sergey Sirotkin – who escaped action after an investigation for potentially impeding Hulkenberg – and Lance Stroll.

Stroll had an off-track moment at Turn 2 on his final run, reporting to the team that he hit the floor hard as he rattled over the kerbs.

So a return back to form for Mercedes. A front row starting position for Hamilton and Bottas. Championship leader Vettel is just third. The French Grand Prix should be fascinating.

Qualifying positions, French Grand Prix:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m30.029s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m30.147s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m30.400s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m30.705s
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m30.895s
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m31.057s
7 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m32.126s
8 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m32.635s
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m32.930s
10 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari –
11 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m32.075s
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m32.115s
13 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m32.454s
14 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1m32.460s
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m32.820s
16 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m32.976s
17 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m33.162s
18 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m33.636s
19 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m33.729s
20 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 1m33.025s

Vettel victorious in Canada

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel scored his fifty Grand Prix victory with a commanding performance at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

By winning the Canadian Grand Prix, Vettel now leads the drivers’ championship by a single point over his rival Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel led every lap of the race, quickly building a comfortable lead over Valtteri Bottas and controlling the gap from there.

The most eventful part of Vettel’s race after that came at the start of the final lap, when the chequered flag was shown more than one lap early.

Vettel was aware enough of the error to complete the full distance at racing speed, although after he crossed the line at the end of the 70th and final lap, the race result was then based on positions at the end of lap 68.

Bottas’s main challenge from behind came at the start when a fast-starting Max Verstappen pulled alongside into Turn 1, but Bottas held onto the inside line for Turn 2 and forced the Red Bull driver to back out.

After that moment, which Verstappen was praised for by his team as he avoided getting caught up in an incident, the Red Bull driver was never able to mount another attack.

Bottas did have a minor scare with 15 laps to go, when he went wide at Turn 1 after lapping Carlos Sainz Jr’s Renault, and clipped the grass at Turn 2, briefly falling back behind the Renault.

Monaco Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo claimed fourth position, taking advantage of difficulties for Lewis Hamilton early in the race to jump the Mercedes during the pitstops.

While the Red Bulls pitted earlier than the other leading cars were scheduled to due to starting the race on the hypersoft tyre, Hamilton also came in around the same time despite being on ultrasofts that should have been able to last much longer.

But he was forced into an early stop so Mercedes could attempt to rectify an engine problem, with the reigning world champion having reported “drop outs of power” early in the race.

After falling behind Ricciardo during those pitstops, Hamilton was then vulnerable to Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari also getting ahead of him when The Iceman stopped much later in the race, but he hung on to fifth place as Raikkonen emerged from the pits just behind him at Turn 2.

Despite having tyres that were 16 laps fresher than Hamilton’s, Raikkonen couldn’t mount a challenge and gradually fell back from the Mercedes.

Mercedes offered Hamilton the option of turning down his engine in the closing laps, but he declined – instead pressuring Ricciardo and getting to within a second of the Red Bull.

Hamilton got close at the hairpin with four laps to go, but was unable to attempt a pass down the following straight after having a big slide in the middle of the corner, and he then lost further time on the following lap stuck behind Sergey Sirotkin’s Williams.

Behind the leading cars, Renault took a one-two finish in the ‘class B’ race, with Nico Hulkenberg leading home Sainz to claim seventh and eighth for the team.

Esteban Ocon, who was ahead of both Renaults early in the race, was the first car to make a scheduled pitstop, and he lost out to Hulkenberg and Sainz having been holding them up before he suffered a slow pitstop, which relegated him to ninth.

Ocon came back at the Renaults in the closing stages of the race, prompting Renault to ask Hulkenberg to pick up the pace to prevent Sainz coming under attack.

The final point went to Charles Leclerc, who inherited tenth when Fernando Alonso retired with an exhaust problem.

The Sauber driver headed Alonso early in the race but he lost out to the McLaren during the pitstops, only to reclaim the position when Alonso came into the pits again to retire.

This was a disappointing end for the double world champion. Fernando Alonso celebrated his 300th Grand Prix at Canada but after a difficult qualifying session – only P14 – this race was challenging for the McLaren driver. To drop out was pure heartbreak.

The only other drivers not to finish were Brendon Hartley and home driver Lance Stroll, who crashed in spectacular fashion at Turn 5 on the opening lap.

Stroll got out of shape through the fast right-hand kink, squeezing Hartley, who was on his left, between the Williams and the tyre barrier, briefly launching the Toro Rosso into the air.

After being examined at the medical centre, Hartley was then sent to hospital for further checks.

So not the most exciting Canadian Grand Prix with the most dramatic moment on lap one involving a crash between the Williams and Toro Rosso.

Congratulations to Sebastian Vettel in winning the race and claiming a Ferrari victory at Canada since 2004, when Michael Schumacher triumphed for the Scuderia.

There’s a single championship point separating Vettel and Hamilton as Formula 1 heads to a new event, the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard. Roll on the title fight.

Canadian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 68 1h28m31.377s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 68 7.376s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 68 8.360s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 68 20.892s
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 68 21.559s
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 68 27.184s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 67 1 Lap
8 Carlos Sainz Renault 67 1 Lap
9 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 67 1 Lap
10 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 67 1 Lap
11 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 67 1 Lap
12 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 67 1 Lap
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 67 1 Lap
14 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 67 1 Lap
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 66 2 Laps
16 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 66 2 Laps
17 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 66 2 Laps
– Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 40 Exhaust
– Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 0 Collision
– Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 0 Collision

Drivers’ standings:
1 Sebastian Vettel 121
2 Lewis Hamilton 120
3 Valtteri Bottas 86
4 Daniel Ricciardo 84
5 Kimi Raikkonen 68
6 Max Verstappen 50
7 Fernando Alonso 32
8 Nico Hulkenberg 32
9 Carlos Sainz 24
10 Kevin Magnussen 19
11 Pierre Gasly 18
12 Sergio Perez 17
13 Esteban Ocon 11
14 Charles Leclerc 10
15 Stoffel Vandoorne 8
16 Lance Stroll 4
17 Marcus Ericsson 2
18 Brendon Hartley 1
19 Romain Grosjean 0
20 Sergey Sirotkin 0

Constructors’ standings:
1 Mercedes 206
2 Ferrari 189
3 Red Bull-Renault 134
4 Renault 56
5 McLaren-Renault 40
6 Force India-Mercedes 28
7 Toro Rosso-Honda 19
8 Haas-Ferrari 19
9 Sauber-Ferrari 12
10 Williams-Mercedes 4

Vettel records 54th career pole at Canada

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel claimed his 54th career pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix, while his Formula 1 title rival Lewis Hamilton was only fourth.

Vettel set the pace throughout the Q3 top ten shootout, posting a time of one minute, 10.776 seconds on his first run to take top spot.

He then shaved 0.012 seconds off that time on his second run using the hypersoft Pirellis to make sure of pole. By securing the prime position on the grid, this was Ferrari’s first pole since the great Michael Schumacher in 2001.

Valtteri Bottas was second fastest for Mercedes, but was unable to improve on his first-run lap having lost time in the first and second sectors.

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen made it three different makes in the top three by jumping to third on his final lap, relegating Hamilton to fourth place – just over two tenths slower than Vettel.

Kimi Raikkonen had been third after the first runs in Q3, but ran wide onto the grass exiting Turn 2 on his second set of hypersofts and was forced to abort the lap. The Iceman ended up shuffled down to fifth.

Daniel Ricciardo was sixth fastest, lapping just two-hundredths of a second off Raikkonen.

The Ferrari and Mercedes drivers will start the race on the ultrasoft Pirellis, having used that compound to set their fastest times in Q2, with Red Bull and the rest of the top ten using hypersofts.

Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg took seventh place ahead of Force India’s Esteban Ocon.

The Renault and Force India pattern was repeated on the fifth row, with Carlos Sainz Jr comfortably ahead of Sergio Perez.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen was fastest of those eliminated in Q2, lapping two-tenths slower than Perez.

That was enough to put him 29 thousandths of a second ahead of Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso, which is running the upgraded Honda engine package.

Hartley complained about losing a couple of tenths in the final chicane on his quickest lap.

Sauber driver Charles Leclerc was P13, with McLaren duo Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne never looking like a Q3 threat and ending up P14 and P15 – separated by just 0.009 seconds.

Alonso complained about poor drivability out of the hairpin on his last run, but Vandoorne suggested over the radio that this pace was representative of McLaren’s capability this weekend.

All five of those drivers had been in the drop zone after their first runs in Q2, but despite all finding time on their second set of hypersofts none were able to break into the top ten.

Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly, who had an engine change to the old-specification Honda after a problem in final practice, was knocked out in Q1 by last-minute improvements by Alonso and Vandoorne.

Gasly was unable to improve on the pace he set on his first Q1 run having been 11th at that stage, meaning he was shuffled down the order in the final minutes and ended up P16.

Williams duo Lance Stroll, who had an off-track moment at the final chicane on his last run, and Sergey Sirotkin were P17 and P18 respectively, effectively last of those not to hit trouble.

Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson hit the wall exiting the Turn 8/9 chicane on his first run, and sustained damage that left him P19.

Haas-Ferrari driver Romain Grosjean was unable to run at all after suffering what appeared to be an engine failure as he headed towards the end of the pitlane billowing smoke at the beginning of the session.

So an exciting qualifying session at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Title challenger Sebastian Vettel sets a new track record to take his 54th career pole. The lap times between the three cars – Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull – are very close. Roll on the Canadian Grand Prix.

Canadian Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m10.776s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m10.857s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m11.096s
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m11.227s
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m11.095s
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m11.281s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m12.038s
8 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m12.084s
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m12.238s
10 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m12.671s
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m12.606s
12 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 1m12.635s
13 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m12.661s
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m12.856s
15 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m12.865s
16 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1m13.047s
17 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m13.590s
18 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m13.643-
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m14.593s
20 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari –