The reigning world champion team, which set the fastest lap in each of the practice sessions held on the Paul Ricard circuit, locked out the front row of the grid for the French Grand Prix in front of 50 000 spectators.
The second day of practice before the French Grand Prix was perturbed by the weather. From the start of free practice this morning rain began to fall. The light shower at the start of the free practice session soon gave way to a downpour, something that the teams least expected. The majority of drivers were convinced that the afternoon qualifying session would take place on a dry track and did not want to take the slightest risk of damaging their car so they remained in their pit. Only a few brave souls ventured out and fastest time in this disrupted session went to Valtteri Bottas.
As expected qualifying took place in warm sunshine. The first part of the session proved fatal to the two McLaren drivers who failed to make it into the top 15 and were eliminated in Q1, as were the Williams duo and Brendon Hartley in his Toro Rosso.
Q2 was very tight as two-hundredths-of-a-second decided 10th place much to the disappointment of Esteban Ocon, who will start in 11th position tomorrow. The Force India driver was followed by Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez, Pierre Gasly and Marcus Ericsson.
Q3 was just as hotly-contested. Bottas thought he had clinched pole in the dying seconds of the session, but this was without taking into account the incredible effort made by his team-mate on his last flying lap. A few seconds later, Lewis Hamilton snatched pole from him in extremis by one-tenth-of-a-second! It was the English driver’s third pole position in eight qualifying sessions this season. After the Spanish Grand Prix it is the second time this year that the two Mercedes have locked out the front row of the grid.
Behind the Silver Arrows came Vettel’s Ferrari, the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, the second Ferrari driven by Kimi Räikkönen, Carlos Sainz’s Renault, Charles Leclerc’s Sauber and the two Haas in the hands of Kevin Magnussen, and Romain Grosjean who did not set a time in Q3 after a minor off.
Hamilton set pole at an average speed of 233,604 km/h and the highest top speed today went to Sergio Perez, in his Mercedes-powered Force India. The Mexican driver was timed at 337,5 km/h!
Even though they failed to match such high speeds, the drivers in GP3, Formula 2 and the Masters Endurance Legends series put on thrilling races for the spectators. This morning in GP3, Frenchman Dorian Boccolacci (MP Motorsport) won from his fellow-countryman and championship leader, Anthoine Hubert (ART Grand Prix), and Nikita Mazepin from Russia (ART Grand Prix). In Formula 2, victory went to Englishman George Russell (ART Grand Prix) from Brazilian Sérgio Sette Câmara (Carlin) and Roberto Mehri (MP Motorsport) from Spain. Alex Kapadia won the race for the Masters Endurance Legends sports prototypes in his Oreca 03 LMP2 followed by Michel Frey in the same type of car and Richard Dean in a Morgan Pescarolo 01.