Red Bull‘s Max Verstappen took his first pole of the season since the season opener in Bahrain as he led the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas going into the French Grand Prix. Sergio Pérez lined up behind the top three, with Carlos Sainz seeing himself finish P5 after a superb lap to put him just above home-boy Pierre Gasly, who once again had a stunning qualifying session that saw the Frenchman put his AlphaTauri at P6, above both the McLarens and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.
With Hamilton having won from pole in the previous two races here, it will be interesting to see what kind of challenge the Mercedes duo can throw at Verstappen, especially with Pérez also in the mix to help out the Dutchman counter Mercedes’ strategies. With the weather forecast predicting rain tomorrow, one can predict drama at the Paul Ricard.
Q1 – (Eliminated – Nicholas Latifi, Kimi Räikkönen, Nikita Mazepin, Lance Stroll and Yuki Tsunoda)
The first qualifying session got off to a dramatic start as AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda lost his rear and spun off and hit the barriers at Turn 1 which brought out the first red flag and knocked the young Japanese driver out of the session. Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas resumed the session going top of the table but was displaced by championship leader Max Verstappen, who was followed by his teammate Sergio Pérez. With five minutes to go, Lewis Hamilton slotted second behind his championship rival.
With a little over a minute to go, Haas’ Mick Schumacher went into the barriers at Turn 6 and lost his rear, ending Q1 with the session’s second red flag. The red flag hindered Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, as the Canadian failed to put in a flying lap, knocking him out in the first qualification session. Even though he crashed, Schumacher made it into Q2 for the first time in his career, although the crash left his car with enough damage to not be able to participate in the second qualifying session.
Q2 (Eliminated – Esteban Ocon, Sebastian Vettel, Antonio Giovinazzi, George Russell and Mick Schumacher)
Lewis Hamilton led the cars off for the second qualifying session with his teammate following closely behind, but it was neither Mercedes nor the championship leader who went P1 for the session; it was Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Pérez who went P1, with Verstappen slotting in behind him.
Hamilton went P1 with five minutes to go with Pérez behind him, a mere one-hundredths down on the Brit’s time. Valtteri Bottas ended the session on top of the time charts, followed closely by his teammate. But it was Esteban Ocon’s elimination in Q2 that was the main shock of the session, since the Frenchman showed decent pace throughout the three practice sessions and was expected to join his teammate, Fernando Alonso, in Q3. Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, along with Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Williams’ George Russell, joined Mick Schumacher in failing to reach the top 10 shootout.
Q3 – Verstappen takes his first pole in France
Max Verstappen started off the final session with a 1:30.35 which set the benchmark for the other cars, with his nearest challenger Hamilton being almost four-tenths down on the Dutchman.
The final flying laps saw Verstappen go even quicker to take pole with a stunning 1:29.990 that eventually saw the championship leader take his first front row start at the French Grand Prix. Hamilton’s could only manage P2, being two-and-a-half-tenths off, followed by Valtteri Bottas. Sergio Pérez lined up behind Bottas, with the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz behind the second-row starters. Pierre Gasly starts at P6 at his home race, as the Frenchman out-qualified the other Ferrari of Leclerc and both the McLarens, who were touted to perform strongly this weekend.
The Final Line Up:-