Hamilton to lead from front in France

LE CASTELLET (France) • Lewis Hamilton secured pole position for the French Grand Prix ahead of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes dominated yesterday's crash-hit qualifying session to sweep the front row of the grid.

The four-time world champion clocked a best lap in 1min 30.029sec to grab the 75th pole position of his career ahead of Bottas, giving himself a perfect chance to regain the initiative in the championship in today's race.

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari was third, three-tenths off the pace, ahead of Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team-mate Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

Haas' Romain Grosjean crashed at Turn 3 during the top-10 shootout, halting the session for eight minutes.

He will start in 10th - the highest of the three home drivers. Compatriots Esteban Ocon of Force India and Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly were 11th and 14th respectively.

After the session resumed, Hamilton scorched to pole on his last lap.

"That wasn't too bad," said the Briton ahead of the first French GP since Magny-Cours in 2008, and the first held at the southern Le Castellet circuit since 1990. "It feels great to be back in France - it's a beautiful place and we got a great response from the crowd."

  • FRENCH GP GRID

  • 1ST ROW

    1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes

    2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes

  • 2ND ROW

    3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari

    4 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull

  • 3RD ROW

    5 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull

    6 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari

  • 4TH ROW

    7 Carlos Sainz (Esp) Renault

    8 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber

  • 5TH ROW

    9 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas

    10 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas

  • SELECTED

    16 Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren

Bottas said: "It wasn't a bad lap, not perfect either. I've been struggling to get perfect laps this week - I was catching up rung by rung, but a one-two here is great. The engine feels good, fresh and powerful."

Mercedes brought an upgraded power unit and Hamilton, who has yet to win in France, has been consistently quick.

Ferrari responded by going out on ultra-softs in Q2 and Vettel provisionally jumped to second, with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in third as the rain relented and the track became faster.

"I did push everything in the last attempt but pushed too much," said Vettel, a point ahead of the Briton after seven of 21 races. "I thought, 'With a really amazing lap, we have a chance' but I'm happy as the car should be good in the race."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 24, 2018, with the headline 'Hamilton to lead from front in France'. Print Edition | Subscribe