Hamilton heads Mercedes lock-out in France

Mercedes Lewis Hamilton takes his 75th career pole position ahead of team-mate Valterri Bottas and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel as Sauber’s Charles Leclerc reaches Q3

23/06/18

Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas easily survived Q1 with Hamilton topping the first session. At the start of Q2 when small droplets of rain started to fall, both Hamilton and Bottas followed Red Bull in strapping on the Supersoft tyre unlike the Ferrari duo.

As the rain died, Hamilton and Bottas switched back to the Ultrasoft tyre with Hamilton ending the session quickest. Hamilton’s first lap in Q3 was a very good 1:30:222 and nearly a tenth ahead of Bottas. Hamilton and Bottas improved in their final runs with Hamilton pipping his team-mate by improving to a 1:30:029 with Bottas on a 1:30:147.

It was a mixed day for Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel didn’t look to be in the fight for pole in the early stages but by beating both Red Bulls, the German will be happy at least. It does look like the new Mercedes engine upgrade has helped the German team. Kimi Raikkonen was on the same pace as Vettel throughout the session but ended up 6th behind both Red Bulls and only 2 places ahead of Charles Leclerc.

It was an average day for Red Bull but by with both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo splitting the Ferrari’s, Team Principal Christian Horner will be happy. Verstappen now leads the intra-team qualifying battle 5 – 3 in his favour and both are looking forward to tomorrow’s race.

Carlos Sainz continued his good form by out-qualifying team-mate Nico Hulkenberg. Sainz ended up “best of the rest” and hopes to score at Renault’s home race. Hulkenberg missed on Q3 and will start 12th.

What a performance from Charles Leclerc. First of all, with Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson making it through to Q2 it was the first time this season this feat had been achieved. With Leclerc getting through to Q3, it was the first time a Sauber driver had been able to do this since the 2015 Italian GP. This is a massive boost for the team to be comfortably ahead of the likes of both Toro Rosso’s, both McLaren’s and both Williams.

It was a welcome return for Haas to get both cars into Q3 with Romain Grosjean having a slight advantage ahead of team-mate Kevin Magnussen. Although, Grosjean’s solid performance so far in the session came to a halt when the Frenchman lost the rear of the car into the fast right-left and ended up in the wall – damaging the front nose and the right-front suspension. Grosjean’s incident hampered Magnussen’s initial run with the Dane ending up in 9th at the end of the session.

Force India looked to be in trouble in the first of qualifying with both Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez sitting in 17th and 18th but after setting great laps, both made it through to Q2. Ocon was unlucky to miss out on Q3 at his home race in 11th while Perez was 4 tenths back in 13th.

Both Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley were very close together in Q1 but it was Hartley who failed to make it through to Q2. The New Zealander will start last after multiple grid penalties. Gasly made it through to Q2 but couldn’t advance and will start 14th at his home race.

It was a surprise to see both McLaren cars knocked out of Q1. What made the difference was the pace of both Sauber’s which put the pressure on McLaren to perform in which they didn’t. At their engine supplier’s home race, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were 16th and 18th but as we know, McLaren’s race pace is far better than their qualifying pace. Surprisingly, both Alonso and Vandoorne were seemingly upbeat and hoping for a good race tomorrow.

It was another dreadful performance from the Williams team with both drivers qualifying on the last row of the grid. Both Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll made mistakes with Sirotkin locking-up on his final run and Stroll running wide and getting airborne for a few seconds. Just to put matters into perspective, Sirotkin was 0.474s and Stroll was 0.567s off of Vandoorne’s time in 18th.

Qualifying Result

  1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:30:029
  2. Valterri Bottas, Mercedes, 1:30:147
  3. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:30:400
  4. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:30:705
  5. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:30:859
  6. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:31:057
  7. Carlos Sainz Jr, Renault, 1:32:126
  8. Charles Leclerc, Sauber, 1:32:635
  9. Kevin Magnussen, Haas, 1:32:930
  10. Romain Grosjean, Haas, no time
  11. Esteban Ocon, Force India, 1:32:075
  12. Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, 1:32:115
  13. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:32:454
  14. Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, 1:32:460
  15. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:32:820
  16. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:32:976
  17. Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso, 1:33:025
  18. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, 1:33:162
  19. Sergey Sirotkin, Williams, 1:33:636
  20. Lance Stroll, Williams, 1:33:729

 

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