Hamilton beats Bottas to Paul Ricard Pole

by Harry Slade
Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the Formula 1 French Grand Prix, beating Mercedes AMG Motorsport team-mate Valtteri Bottas at Circuit Paul Ricard.

Scuderia Ferrari suffered a fluctuating session with Charles Leclerc rounding out the top three, but Sebastian Vettel languishing down in seventh.

The top 10 shootout commenced with Hamilton edging Bottas by 0.157 seconds. The Ferrari challenge was led by Leclerc, albeit over half a second away from the Silver Arrows.

Vettel was left frustrated as an apparent gearbox issue on upshifts limited the German to only one run in the final stage of qualifying.

This left Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen fourth after the opening runs, but the Dutchman was still 1.247s away from Hamilton’s provisional pole time.

As the final runs commenced it quickly became apparent that Bottas was failing to improve, Hamilton then added the finishing touches to his pole position, going even quicker, setting a lap time of a 1:28.319 to improve his margin over the Finn to 0.286s.

This allowed Mercedes to secure a record-breaking 63rd front-row lock out, its sixth of the 2019 season.

With Leclerc unable to split the Mercedes, the Monégasque was left to lead the second row of the grid and was the only man within a second of the Mercedes. Verstappen completed the second row in his Red Bull.

As Vettel and the second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly faltered, the McLaren F1 Team was left to pick up the pieces – with Lando Norris qualifying a career best fifth and team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. completing the third row for the rejuvenated Woking outfit.

The Renault F1 Team‘s day contrasted this with Daniel Ricciardo only able to manage eighth, behind the customer team by half a second.

Gasly produced another below par display for Red Bull, the Frenchman only able to head the fifth row in ninth over seven tenths away from Verstappen.

Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the top ten for Alfa Romeo Racing, with a sterling effort to outqualify his more experienced team-mate Kimi Räikkönen for the second race in a row.

But the Italian was limited to a single run in his first appearance in the final part of qualifying, and this was apparent in his lacklustre final lap.

The second phase of qualifying was characterised by a host of drivers attempting to enter the top ten on the yellow-marked medium compound tyres, as they were deemed the best race tyre considering the high track temperature. These included the Mercedes, Ferraris, McLarens, Renaults and Verstappen.

Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda‘s charge was led by Alexander Albon, who narrowly missed out on a top ten start. The Thai driver finished 0.040s away from usurping Gasly and claiming the final spot in the third part of qualifying.

Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg made an error into the Mistral chicane, leaving the German a despondent thirteenth at Renault’s home race.

Moreover he is now 7-1 down to his team-mate in the qualifying stakes this season as his medium compound gamble failed to pay dividends.

The Racing Point F1 Team and Haas F1 Team‘s weekends were compromised by their leading drivers failing to advance from Qualifying 2. Sérgio Perez could only qualify his RP19 fourteenth, while Kevin Magnussen finished directly behind in fifteenth.

Daniil Kvyat headed the qualifying one exodus, narrowly missing out on the second qualifying segment in his Toro Rosso.

Meanwhile home-hero Romain Grosjean had a snap of oversteer through the Mistral chicane, leaving the Haas driver a disappointing 17th on the grid.

Lance Stroll continued his streak of Qualifying 1 woes – now up to 12 consecutive exits – only ahead of the two struggling Williams Racing pair, heavily contrasting the form of his resurgent teammate Pérez.

The aforementioned Grove-based squad locked out the tenth row for the eighth consecutive time this season, with George Russell leading his more experienced teammate Robert Kubica once more in France.

Russell will start behind the Pole, however, due to a grid drop for a new energy store and control electronics unit.

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