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

7 thoughts to “Hamilton scores 75th career pole position”

  1. French Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by Formula1.com.

    At the first qualifying session at the Circuit Paul Ricard for 28 years, it was Lewis Hamilton who came out on top, with team mate Valtteri Bottas second as Mercedes stamped their dominance on Le Castellet.

    After a washed-out FP3, which witnessed only 10 minutes of meaningful running, qualifying saw the drivers get back up to speed at a much drier Paul Ricard. Although the session saw occasional patches of light rain, it wasn’t enough to stop Hamilton going fastest in all three phases, making the most of the upgrades that Mercedes have brought to France to extend his record of pole positions. Not bad for a driver who apparently did no simulator running around Paul Ricard ahead of the French Grand Prix.

    Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was third, followed by the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, and the sister Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen in sixth. Renault’s Carlos Sainz was P7, with Sauber’s Charles Leclerc a stunning eighth, ahead of the two Haas cars of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, although the latter failed to set a Q3 time after putting his car in the wall at Turn 3 ahead of his home race.

    Here’s how the sessions unfolded beneath the moody skies of Le Castellet…

    It was a session to forget for the McLaren team. Already under a cloud following some heated exchanges with the press this weekend, Q1 saw both of the team’s drivers failing to make it through to Q2, with Fernando Alonso’s 16th quickest time some 1.4 seconds shy of P2 man Verstappen’s effort, despite both cars using the same Renault powerplant. It’s only six days since Alonso was on the top step of the Le Mans podium, but that must seem like an eternity ago now.

    Behind Alonso in P16 came the Toro Rosso of Brendon Hartley, the sister McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne and the two Williams cars of Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll, with the Canadian managing to wheelie his FW41 at Turn 2 after going off track and hitting a sausage kerb. Vandoorne, Sirotkin and Stroll will all jump up a position on race day, however, when Hartley takes a penalty for taking on new power unit elements following engine issues on Friday.

    It was a happier Q1 for Sauber, with both Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson making it through the session for the first time in 2018, while Grosjean also impressed early on to go fourth fastest in the Haas as Hamilton, Verstappen and Raikkonen claimed the top three times.

    The drivers were queuing up at the end of the pit lane minutes before Q2 started. The reason? The rain had returned to Paul Ricard, albeit very lightly. Despite that, all drivers headed out on dry tyres, with nearly everyone managing to better their Q1 times. Leclerc was the hero of the session, dragging his Sauber through into Q3 by going P10, with a time around seven-tenths faster than team mate Ericsson, who ended up as the slowest of the runners in P15.

    Force India would have been disappointed to lose both cars in Q2 after receiving Mercedes’ updated engine in France, with Esteban Ocon going P11 and Sergio Perez P13. It was also an underwhelming lap for Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, who had to watch team mate Carlos Sainz go through into Q3 while he could only manage 13th fastest, while Pierre Gasly, who had shown great pace in his Toro Rosso during Friday’s practice sessions, also missed out, finishing P14.

    Hamilton led the field yet again, while both Red Bulls – like the Mercedes – went for an alternative strategy to Ferrari and the rest of the top ten, setting their fastest times on the harder, red-walled supersoft tyres, making them an interesting prospect for the race.

    With the rain having cleared off, it was a straight shoot-out for pole as the drivers waded into battle for Q3. But with just four minutes of the session gone, Grosjean asked too much of his Haas at Turn 3 and spun into the wall, bringing out the red flags and stopping the clock. It was a disappointing end to a session that had promised so much for the Frenchman, but the damage to his VF-18 appeared light as it was craned out of harm’s way.

    As the nine remaining drivers returned to the track, it was soon apparent that there weren’t going to be any last minute upsets to disturb Mercedes’ stately progress. Sebastian Vettel got closest, but a scrappy final effort saw him end up in third. Ahead of him, Hamilton held his nerve to edge team mate Bottas by 0.118s and claim the 75th pole position of his career, and at the 26th different circuit to boot. In P4 and P5 came the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo, while Raikkonen couldn’t string a decent lap together and ended up sixth.

    Sainz in seventh will have been pleased to out-qualify Renault team mate Hulkenberg for only the third time this year, while the two Haas cars of Magnussen and Grosjean, who failed to get a time on the board before his excursion into the barrier, were P9 and P10.

    And yes, that means that not only did Leclerc make it into Q3, he even managed to make a dent in the timesheets by finishing P8 in what was one of the great qualifying efforts of the season so far. A quite amazing performance from the driver in the field who was born closest to the Circuit Paul Ricard, but the day belonged to Hamilton, with Mercedes’ quadruple world champion continuing to re-write the record books.

  2. This was a difficult qualifying session for McLaren and double Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso commented that the team is doing “everything possible” amid qualifying disaster. Motorsport.com has the full story.

    Fernando Alonso says he is doing “everything possible” with the equipment he has after a disastrous qualifying for McLaren ahead of the French Grand Prix.

    Alonso, returning to Formula 1 this weekend after winning the Le Mans 24 Hours with Toyota on Sunday, was knocked out in Q1 at Paul Ricard.

    It is the first time this year that Alonso failed to advance to Q2.

    The Spaniard qualified down in 16th position, two places ahead of teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, as McLaren endured its worst qualifying of the year.

    When asked how he felt to be out in Q1 less than a week after winning Le Mans, he said: “Nothing, normality, normality.

    “On the personal side I’m trying to do everything possible. I believe I’m the only one right now who is 8-0 against the champion in GP3 [sic], GP2 and all the categories he raced in.

    “This is Formula 1. You need the right package and the right place.

    “These last races have not been good for us but amid all this disaster we are seventh in the championship, so we must be doing something right.”

    The two-time world champion, who has failed to score in the last two races in Monaco and Canada, felt all of his laps in Q1 had been good.

    “We were sort of okay all Friday and then the last lap was pretty good but we never know how fast the other teams are. Today we had these difficulties.

    “The four laps were good, two tenths better than my teammate, who has won several races here, so it is what it is.”

    Alonso suggested he is anticipating a processional race tomorrow unless it rains.

    When asked what was expected from Sunday, he said: “The same as in the last few races. A train of cars all Sunday.

    “Those on pole will be fastest, they will start first and run away. The second ones will start second and run away. The third ones will start third and will run away.

    “The weather could play the most important part. If it rains like this morning or if there’s changing conditions it will probably be a more chaotic race. If it doesn’t rain, it will be more complicated to overtake.”

  3. Red Bull Racing tried a different downforce set-up compared to their rivals but admitted that this gamble couldn’t make up for top speed deficit. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Red Bull claims it was still losing seven tenths of a second on Paul Ricard’s straights despite gambling on running Spa levels of downforce in qualifying for the French Grand Prix.

    With the team well aware that its Renault power unit is lacking compared to Mercedes and Ferrari, it elected to trim out Max Verstappen’s wing in a bid to not lose out in a straight line.

    But although Verstappen managed to qualify on the second row – just three tenths adrift of Sebastian Vettel – Horner said that the team was still losing out in top speed term.

    “I think Max is slightly lower in downforce from just before qualifying,” Horner told Sky.

    “We are pretty much at Spa levels of downforce and unfortunately we are still seven tenths down on the straight!

    “But both drivers have done a great job there. Fourth and fifth we can still race well from there.”

    Red Bull elected to run the supersoft tyre in Q2, a move which it believes will offer it a good chance of taking the fight to the ultrasoft-starting Ferraris.

    “I think Mercedes have gone at this race,” explained Horner.

    “I think this tyre is really suiting their car on this surface, so I think as long as they don’t screw it up tomorrow they are in pretty decent shape. But I think we have really got a race with Ferrari.

    “They have gone a different route and are starting on a different tyre, and it is higher deg on that tyre. So, hopefully that gives us more variables and more opportunities in the race.

    “So we have got two good race drivers and it is going to be very difficult to pass here, so it needs to be done on strategy.”

    Asked if he was surprised about Ferrari’s choice, Horner said: “Yes. It is going to be interesting. You are a long time on that left front tyre here so it gets quite a hammering.

    “And if the sun comes back tomorrow and the temperature goes up, it could be interesting to see which strategy works out best.”

  4. The hero of qualifying was Charles Leclerc, who qualified his Sauber in the top 10 for the first time. World champions Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton was left feeling impressed by Leclerc’s run to Q3. Motorsport.com has the story.

    Formula 1 world champions Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have hailed Charles Leclerc for his starring French Grand Prix qualifying performance.

    Leclerc made it into the final part of qualifying for the first time in his fledgling career and 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.

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

    “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 is in a rich vein of form having scored points in three of the previous four grands prix.

    He 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.

    “Yesterday was a disaster, the car didn’t feel great and I was not driving very well,” Leclerc told Sky Sports.

    “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.”

    Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur said it was a “huge feeling” for the team to reach Q3 for the first time since the 2015 Chinese Grand Prix.

    He said Leclerc and teammate Marcus Ericsson, who made it into Q2 and qualified 15th despite having minimal track time after a fiery FP1 crash, had a “huge recovery”.

    “For Charles it’s a special test because it’s the first Q3, and P8, and in France,” Vasseur told Motorsport.com. “I think it’s a great feeling for him.

    “He did always the big push to get into Q2 and Q2 was not always the best lap of the weekend.

    “Today he did a much better job in Q2 than before. He did a fantastic lap in Q2.”

  5. Haas driver Kevin Magnussen slams “confused” and “desperate” Kimi Raikkonen after Q3 run-in. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Kevin Magnussen has lashed out at a “desperate”, “erratic” and “confused” Formula 1 rival Kimi Raikkonen, accusing the Ferrari driver of ruining his Q3 effort.

    The Dane came up on Raikkonen while preparing for a decisive last-ditch effort in the final qualifying segment at the French Grand Prix, having not yet set a laptime in a session disrupted by his teammate Romain Grosjean’s crash.

    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.”

    He added: “I don’t know, if you’re that confused, just try not to get in the way of anyone else.”

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

    “I don’t know if what he did is against the rules, but surely he is impossible to predict,” Magnussen railed.

    “And also he is stopping at Turn 14, then he’s pushing, then he’s stopping, that’s erratic driving in my mind, but I don’t know if it is in the stewards’ mind.”

    Raikkonen was up against it in the closing minutes of qualifying, as a sideways moment on his first run had left him only sixth.

    Unable to put together a better lap in the end, he conceded “the last try was just a mess” – while Magnussen insisted he was being “desperate”.

    “It’s frustrating what happened. I don’t think it was necessary,” Magnussen said.

    “I think he just had no idea what to do and he was desperate to get a lap, he hadn’t done a lap, he f**ked all his laps. He was desperate.”

  6. FIA stewards have decided against penalising Kimi Raikkonen for allegedly impeding Kevin Magnussen in the final moments of qualifying for Formula 1’s French Grand Prix.

    Magnussen came up on and passed the Ferrari driver as he began his last chance for a ‘push’ lap, having been forced to abort his previous one when his Haas teammate Romain Grosjean crashed, bringing out the red flag.

    But Raikkonen was also beginning a lap in which he hoped to set a time, and he slipstreamed Magnussen along the main straight and repassed him at Turn 1 before deciding to abort his lap.

    In the aftermath of the incident, Magnussen was convinced that it constituted unnecessary impeding.

    “No matter what, he [Raikkonen] was going to f*** the lap,” he said.

    But he also cast doubt on whether the stewards would penalise a driver from one of the top three teams.

    “It doesn’t happen,” he said. “Because, you know, it’s the way it is.”

    The decision was released 55 minutes after both drivers and their representatives were summoned to appear before race stewards Garry Connelly, Yannick Dalmas, Jean-Marie Krempff and Enzo Spano.

    “The Stewards examined video evidence of the incident and the radio communication of both drivers concerned,” said the FIA in a statement.

    “The Stewards heard from Kimi Raikkonen, the driver of car 7, Kevin Magnussen, the driver of car 20, and the team representatives.

    “There is no doubt that the ‘push’ lap of car 20 was thwarted by the proximity of Car 7 which overtook car 20 just after it had started the lap. This was the last opportunity for each driver to achieve a fast lap in Q3.

    “The Stewards noted that the driver of car 20 was unsure of the intentions of the driver of car 7 during the last half of the previous lap, where car 20 was on an ‘out’ lap and car 7 had aborted a push lap. Car 7 did slow towards the end of that lap but when compared to [sic] a previous out lap in Q3, there was a similar pattern of slowing in the same area.

    “The Stewards are not of the view that the driver of car 7 ‘unnecessarily impeded’ car 20 (refer Article 31.5 of the Formula One Sporting Regulations). In addition, the Stewards do not consider that the driver of car 7 drove ‘unnecessarily slowly’ (refer Appendix L Chapter IV Article 2e of the International Sporting Code).

    “Despite the negative effect the incident had on the lap of car 20, the Stewards decline to take any further action.

    “All competitors are hereby reminded of their right to appeal certain decisions of the Stewards, as set out in the International Sporting Code and related regulations, including the time limits for such appeals.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

  7. This was another difficult day for Haas driver Romain Grosjean following a crash in qualifying. Grosjean commented that he “no explanation” for Q3 spin. Motorsport.com has the full details.

    Romain Grosjean says he has “no explanation” for the spin that sent him into the barriers during qualifying for Formula 1’s French Grand Prix.

    Haas driver Grosjean lost control of his car at Turn 4 during his first Q3 run, spinning hitting the barriers with his front wing, which got stuck and made it impossible for the Frenchman to reverse and return to the pits.

    The session was red-flagged as a result and Grosjean failed to set a time.

    Grosjean suggested afterwards that the incident had not been a simple mistake on his part.

    “We don’t know yet what happened,” he said when asked if he had made a mistake. “It’s the same braking point, the same entry speed.

    “It’s exactly the same as the previous lap, so there is no explanation. Same line, so I don’t know what happened there.

    “The car oversteered and then the nose was stuck in the barrier so I couldn’t reverse the car, otherwise I would have come back to the pits, put a new front wing and go for it again.”

    Grosjean feels the incident cost him a chance of finishing as best-of-the-rest behind the Mercedes, Ferraris and Red Bulls.

    He added: “I know that we could have been seventh and probably eighth and that would have been nicer than [where] we are now.

    “Again, we need to understand what happened. As I said, driving, there was nothing crazy going in there, so it doesn’t make sense that we blocked the rear that way.

    The Haas driver feels he can still have a strong race on Sunday, as he reckons his team has the fourth-quickest car this weekend.

    “We had half a second gap to the Renault, which we should have in the race,” he said.

    “We are going to try to use that as much as we can to try to overtake them, and same thing with the Sauber [of Charles Leclerc], and hopefully get some good points.”

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