The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas line up second and third for the French Grand Prix, with the weather looking unpredictable come Sunday.
Both Silver Arrows qualified ahead of Red Bull Racing‘s Sergio Pérez who lines up fourth, but behind championship leader Max Verstappen who took pole.
The race pace between the two teams looks too close to call, especially with a number of balance changes made to Hamilton’s car since his race run in free practice. Team Principal Toto Wolff is relishing the battle between the two teams and is looking forward to a titanic fight to take the win tomorrow.
“That was an exciting qualifying session and a solid performance to put our cars P2 and P3, with just a tenth of a second between them, but we weren’t quick enough to claim pole position today. We made a good step with Lewis’s car from yesterday, and he felt much more comfortable with the balance once he was running in qualifying; and Valtteri has bounced back strongly from a tough weekend in Baku.
“Like the cars around us, we will start the race on the Medium tyre, which will give us the opportunity to race hard tomorrow and hopefully put pressure on Max. The long runs yesterday looked closely matched, so I’m sure we’re in for a real fight all the way to the chequered flag.”
“Second and third is a fair result for us” – Shovlin
Mercedes Track Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin is also happy with second and third, considering the team’s difficulties during recent rounds. Shovlin does point out however the sizeable gap to pole-sitter Verstappen.
This season has shown though that Mercedes race pace tends to be stronger than their one lap pace, meaning the win is definitely on the cards on Sunday.
“There’s quite a gap to pole and our laps were pretty good in the end so second and third is a fair result for us. Valtteri continued build through the day from the solid baseline he’d established yesterday and Lewis managed to recover some confidence in the car after a difficult Friday; quite a bit of work has gone into fine tuning the balance and it doesn’t feel like there was much more to come.
“The early parts of the session were a bit messy as we kept getting caught in a bunch of cars on the out-lap and struggled to get the tyres in the right window. By the end we had good track position and we looked pretty close to Max for the first half of the lap.
“Our main issue seems to be a loss on the straight from turn 9 down to turn 11 and by sector three we’re no longer able to gain anything back in the corners. We’ve seen many times this year that our race pace is better than our qualifying and we’ve shown that we can win races from behind so we’re still optimistic that we’re playing for the win tomorrow.”