Defending Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton achieved his 86th career pole position in the sport with a fine qualifying result at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas had the edge initially after setting the timesheets in both Q1 and Q2, but Hamilton stepped up a gear with a run to the top spot on the first runs in Q3 with a lap of one minute, 28.448 seconds.
Hamilton then improved to a one minute, 28.319 seconds on his second lap to secure pole position, and set the fastest times of all in each of the three sectors across his two laps.
Bottas had a scruffy lap and was unable to improve on his first run pace, meaning he ended up 0.286 seconds behind Hamilton.
Charles Leclerc was the lead Ferrari, 0.646 seconds off the pace in third and yet well ahead of fourth-placed Max Verstappen.
The Red Bull driver struggled during qualifying, ending up more than four tenths slower than Leclerc and only 0.009 seconds quicker than the McLaren of Lando Norris.
Carlos Sainz Jr was sixth fastest, just over a tenth slower than his teammate, to signal McLaren’s strong performance throughout practice and qualifying.
This was a fine qualifying performance for McLaren. Two drivers in the top 6. Kudos to Norris and Sainz with this excellent result.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel was only seventh, 1.480 seconds off the pace, having abandoned his first qualifying run.
Vettel reported a missed upshift gear change, and also had a moment at Turn 1 and a later off-track excursion on his first run, then was not able to string together a strong lap on his second set of soft tyres.
This was a disappointing result for the four-time champion. Seems Vettel is not in the right frame of mind considering the controversial moment in Canada and the constant media pressure.
Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo was eighth, just over a tenth slower than Vettel and ahead of Pierre Gasly.
Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi was P10, although his one attempt in Q3 did not go well after his late lap in Q2 allowed him to make the final stage of qualifying.
Eight of the top ten will start the race on mediums having used that tyre to set their Q2 times, the exceptions being Giovinazzi and Gasly – who both used softs.
Toro Rosso driver Alex Albon was bumped down to P11 at the end of Q2 by Gasly, who nicked the final Q3 slot by just four-hundredths of a second.
Kimi Raikkonen was unable to match teammate Giovinazzi’s late-session pace and ended up P12, just ahead of Nico Hulkenberg – who attempted to make it through to the top ten shootout using mediums on his second run.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez was P14, seven-tenths faster than the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.
Daniil Kvyat, who must start at the back thanks to grid penalties for taking Honda’s ‘Spec 3’ turbocharger and V6 – on top of other engine component offences – was fastest of those eliminated in Q1.
Kvyat was bumped in the final moments of the session by Toro Rosso teammate Albon, who is not running the latest-spec components.
Haas driver Romain Grosjean was knocked into the dropzone by improvements from Perez and Ricciardo, with his attempt to escape by the rear stepping out in the chicane and spitting him off track.
Lance Stroll continued this season’s run of Q1 eliminations in P18 place having jumped back ahead of the Williams of George Russell on his final attempt.
Russell is carrying two 10-place grid penalties after the Williams team was forced to change his Mercedes control electronics and energy store following an electrical power loss that restricted him to four laps in final practice.
He qualified P19 after moving onto his third control electronics and energy store of the season, having already changed both following his bizarre drain strike during Azerbaijan Grand Prix practice.
Russell outpaced team-mate Robert Kubica by 0.416 seconds in the battle for P19, but Kubica is set to start P18 thanks to penalties for others.
So congratulations to Lewis Hamilton with the French Grand Prix qualifying result. Another Mercedes front row with Valtteri Bottas joining his Silver Arrows colleague at the front. Going to be fascinating race in terms of the championship.
French Grand Prix qualifying results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m28.319s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m28.605s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m28.965s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1m29.409s
5 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1m29.418s
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1m29.522s
7 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m29.799s
8 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m29.918s
9 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 1m30.184s
10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m33.420s
11 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 1m30.461s
12 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m30.533s
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m30.544s
14 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1m30.738s
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m31.440s
16 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m31.626s
17 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1m31.726s
18 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1m32.789s
19 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1m33.205s
20 Daniil Kvyat Toro RossopHonda 1m31.564s