FRANCE: Max Verstappen set the tone ahead of qualifying for the French Grand Prix by clocking a stunning 1m 31.300s lap, a whopping margin of 0.747s ahead of his closest rival Valtteri Bottas. Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz finished an impressive third for Ferrari.
With Ferrari lamenting a poor performance which they labeled as “back to reality” on Friday, the team was jubilated to see Sainz take P3, with the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez coming 4th. Hamilton, who swapped the W12 chassis with teammate Bottas for this weekend, could only manage P5, almost a second behind Verstappen’s time and closed ahead of the McLaren of Lando Norris in P6.
The Alpines slipped back on Saturday morning after an amazing performance on Friday with Fernando Alonso heading teammate Esteban Ocon in P7 and P8, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the top 10.
Charles Leclerc finished the session in P11, ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi and the Aston Martins of Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel, who ran the white marked hard compound tired in the session, in P13 and P14. Kimi Raikkonen was 15th and ahead of George Russell, 16th who drove only for the second time this weekend, after handing his car over to Roy Nissany on Friday morning.
The second AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda came home in P17 with the Japanese driver getting angry after having a lap deleted for track limit violations. The second Williams of Nicholas Latifi and then the leading Haas of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin rounded off the field.
Verstappen pips title rival Hamilton to pole in action-filled French GP qualifying
The French track, which returned to the international racing calendar in 2018, has mostly been a Mercedes’ hunting ground with Hamilton taking pole and wins in every edition so far, but this time Red Bull was the one who seemed the strongest.
Verstappen set the early pace in Q3 by going almost four-tenths of a second quicker than Hamilton, but things got spicier in the second runs as Hamilton went quickest in the first sector. Verstappen responded with a purple second and final sector to better his time and take his second pole position of the season.
Hamilton finished second alongside the Dutchman in the front row, with Valtteri Bottas taking third as Mercedes put up an improved performance after two tumultuous weekends in Monaco and Azerbaijan.
Sergio Perez came fourth, half a second behind Red Bull teammate Verstappen, while Carlos Sainz out qualified the other Ferrari of Charles Leclerc for the second time this season as he ended up fifth. Pierre Gasly gave the French fans in the grandstands a treat with P6, in what is his fifth top-six starting position in seven races so far this year. Leclerc, pole-sitter in the last two races, could only muster up a sub-par P7 as he was beaten by a teammate for the first time at Paul Ricard.
It was a tough day for McLaren, as even though they got both cars into Q3, they were at the bottom of the top 10 with Lando Norris eighth and Daniel Ricciardo a tenth further back in 10th. They were separated by Fernando Alonso being the only Alpine driver in Q3 in the team’s home race, with the Spaniard making four Q3 appearances in seven races this season. His teammate and home favorite Ocon will start 11th.
Also Read: Max Verstappen Wins Monaco Grand Prix
Earlier in Q1 Yuki Tsunoda lost control of his AlphaTauri at Turn 2 and slid into the barriers bringing out the first red flag of the qualification session within 6 minutes of the start of the first session. Later in the same session, Mick Schumacher hit the barriers hard and that meant everyone’s final runs had to be aborted, which resulted in him grabbing a spot in Q2 and his best starting position P14 at the expense of other drivers like Lance Stroll and Kimi Raikkonen who missed out on putting up a competitive lap time.
At the end of qualification, pole-sitter Max Verstappen was quoted saying, “So far it’s been a really positive weekend on a track where it’s normally been a bit difficult for us. I think yesterday, FP2 was a bit of a turnaround and just made it even better today so of course, to get pole position was really nice.”