Lewis Hamilton took the 86th pole position of his career as Mercedes locked out the front row and Sebastian Vettel labored to seventh at the French Grand Prix.
Mercedes had looked the class of the field throughout practice and duly converted that into a dominant qualifying performance, with Hamilton taking provisional pole and then improving on his final lap to post a 1m28.319s. Valtteri Bottas needed to find 0.2s on his final run but had a scruffy last sector and couldn’t improve, with Charles Leclerc 0.3s further back in third.
Vettel gave up on his first attempt in Q3 and then did not produce a good lap with his one shot to end up down in seventh place, nearly 1.5s off Hamilton.
There was a close battle for fourth place between Max Verstappen and the McLarens, with Verstappen just edging ahead of the impressive Lando Norris by 0.009s. McLaren still locked out the third row due to Vettel’s struggles, with Carlos Sainz sixth as the team secured its best qualifying result of the season.
Behind Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo managed to outqualify Pierre Gasly as Red Bull slipped back toward the midfield, while Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the top 10 with his second Q3 appearance.
The second part of qualifying was intriguing from a strategic point of view, with even midfield runners attempting to qualify on the medium tire in high temperatures. With track temperatures hitting 132F, both Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren drivers made it through on the medium, while Ricciardo and Verstappen also did.
Giovinazzi impressed to reach Q3 on the softs, while a late lap from Gasly on the softs knocked down Alexander Albon to 11th place ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen as Haas struggled throughout.
Q1 started with a familiar bit of controversy as Raikkonen found Ricciardo sat on the inside of Turn 11 and ended up running very wide. As the Alfa Romeo driver came back on the track he rejoined in front of Romain Grosjean who was forced to back off, with both incidents being investigated after the session.
Grosjean’s qualifying didn’t get much better as he was eliminated in 17th, just under 0.2s adrift of Albon in the final spot in Q2. Daniil Kvyat was between Grosjean and his Toro Rosso teammate, with the Russian already set to start from the back of the grid due to a power unit penalty.
Lance Stroll’s qualifying woes continued with the Canadian again failing to advance from Q1 for the 12th straight race, on this occasion ending up a massive 0.762s slower than his teammate Perez in the same session. The two Williams drivers of George Russell and Robert Kubica were slowest, but Russell will drop behind his teammate as a result of a power unit penalty following issues in FP3.