Mercedes locked out the front row of the grid for the sixth time this season as Lewis Hamilton beat team-mate Valterri Bottas to pole position for the French Grand Prix by almost three tenths of a second. Charles Leclerc was the dominant team’s closest rival, finishing more than six tenths of a second behind championship leader Hamilton.
Bottas was in control in the opening segment, the Finn setting a session-best time of 1:30.550 to edge Hamilton by 0.059s and when the chequered flag came out the Mercedes duo held the top spots ahead of Leclerc, while Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo jumped to P4 and P5 respectively after good final laps.
At the bottom of the order, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, already facing a back-of-the-grid start due to PU penalties, was eliminated in P16 ahead of the Haas of Romain Grosjean, Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and the Williams duo of George Russell and Robert Kubica.
With the soft compound Pirelli tyres suffering badly in track temperatures that topped 50˚C, a number of teams equipped their drivers with medium compound tyres, looking to start the race on the more durable compound.
And when the flag fell this time, the top eight in the second session made it through to Q3 on the medium tyres. Bottas once again topped the timesheet with a lap of 1:29.437, though this time the Finn edged Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by five hundredths of a second. Hamilton was third ahead of Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris, while Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen slotted into P6 ahead of the second McLaren of Carlos Sainz.
Both Verstappen and Red Bull team-mate Pierre Gasly looked to struggling for grip in the conditions and Gasly was luck to jump from P13 to P10 and safety with a final flying lap just four hundredths of a second quicker than Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon. But while Gasly will be forced to start on worn soft tyres, Albon will get a free choice of starting rubber tomorrow.
Albon was followed out of the session by Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez, and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
Given Bottas’ hold on P1, which extended all the way back to FP2, he might have been expected to take his fourth pole position of the year. Hamilton, though, moved ahead early in Q3 on to claim provisional pole just over a tenth of a second clear of the Finn.
And the Briton improved on his final run to set a time of 1:28.319, almost three tenths clear of Bottas and more than six tenths ahead of third-placed Leclerc and Verstappen.
It was an excellent day for McLaren, with Norris sealing place fifth ahead of team-mate Sainz, but it was a disappointing final session for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel as the German slumped to P7, 1.4s off the pole pace and more than eight tenths of a second behind team-mate Leclerc.
Vettel was followed by Daniel Ricciardo of Renault, the second Red Bull of Gasly and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.
2019 FIA Formula One French Grand Prix – Qualiyfing
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:28.319
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:28.605 0.286
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:28.965 0.646
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:29.409 1.090
5 Lando Norris McLaren 1:29.418 1.099
6 Carlos Sainz McLaren 1:29.522 1.203
7 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:29.799 1.480
8 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:29.918 1.599
9 Pierre Gasly Red Bull Racing 1:30.184 1.865
10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1:33.420 5.101
11 Alex Albon Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:30.461 2.142
12 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1:30.533 2.214
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:30.544 2.225
14 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1:30.738 2.419
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:31.440 3.121
16 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:31.564 3.245
17 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:31.626 3.307
18 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1:31.726 3.407
19 George Russell Williams 1:32.789 4.470
20 Robert Kubica Williams 1:33.205 4.886