'It's great to be back on pole' - Lewis Hamilton dominates 2018 French Grand Prix qualifying
PUBLISHED: 20:05 23 June 2018 | UPDATED: 18:00 24 June 2018
Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.
Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will start the 2018 French Grand Prix from pole position after spearheading a Mercedes one-two in qualifying at the Circuit Paul Ricard.
The 33-year-old Mercedes driver from Hertfordshire stormed to his 75th Formula One pole position, and his third of the 2018 season, today (Saturday).
Hamilton will start Sunday’s race from the front of the grid after posting a Q3 best lap of 1m 30.029s.
The four-time F1 world champion said: “I’m really happy with the pole, but I always strive for perfection and there was some time left on the track, so I still have stuff to work on.
“I was three-tenths down in the first two sectors, but fortunately, I fixed my last sector and caught it back up.
“Leading the field is where I want to be, so it’s great to be back on pole.”
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport completed a lock out of the front row at the return of the French Grand Prix.
Valtteri Bottas came home in P2 on the grid, completing the second front-row lockout for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport of the season, with a time of 1m30.147s.
Sebastian Vettel was third fastest for Ferrari in qualifying. The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were fourth and fifth respectively, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari as the top three teams once again dominated.
But the day belonged to the Silver Arrows and star driver Hamilton, who added: “The track is growing on me as well; the more you drive it, the more you get to enjoy it.
“This is one of the most beautiful places in the world and we have so many fans coming out here, so I’m hoping the weather is good tomorrow.”
Both Mercedes drivers will start tomorrow’s Grand Prix on the SuperSoft tyre.
Hamilton said: “Ferrari will start the race on the UltraSoft tyres, we’re on the SuperSofts, so that should be interesting.
“We definitely pulled together and have done a better job so far this weekend, but it’s going to be close tomorrow.
“So I will keep my head down and try to capitalise on all the hard work coming into the race.”
Today’s result marks the 52nd front-row lockout for Mercedes in Formula One.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Bottas said: “We were strong today, the team did a really good job.
“I myself got an okay lap, but did not yet get a perfect lap together.
“It felt like I was playing catch-up all day after I missed a lot of track time in FP2, and track time in FP3 was limited for everyone.
“So I was still finding gains in every run throughout qualifying.
“In the end it was not quite perfect, but it was enough to get us a front-row lockout.”
Bottas also paid tribute to the Silver Arrows set-up. He said: “The team has done an amazing job upgrading the car; every single upgrade, including the engine, helped to make the car better and the total package brought us the front row today.
“It seems like it might be difficult to overtake on this track, so it’s very good to start from the front.
“We will see different strategies tomorrow, Ferrari will start on a softer tyre than and it will be interesting to see what effect that has.
“We have a good car and should have all the tools to fight for a 1-2 tomorrow and I’ll do my best to fight for the win.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was delighted to see the team secure another one-two qualifying result.
“This sport is a rollercoaster of emotions and, after the blow we took two weeks ago in Montreal, it’s fantastic to have both cars on the front row here in Paul Ricard,” he said.
“The team has put blood, sweat and tears into our development programmes over the past weeks and months – and this weekend’s package is the first part of that work to come to fruition.
“The headline has been the new Power Unit, which has been a massive effort from all the team in Brixworth, but we are continuing to learn and improve in every area of how we run the car, and that work is starting to pay off.
“Having said all of that, we didn’t come here expecting to put our cars first and second on the grid – it is so close this season between the top three teams that every detail counts, and I’m really proud of the work that we have done since being caught off guard in Montreal.
“But today is only Saturday–- the points are given out tomorrow. There is uncertainty over the weather, and we have taken a different approach to tyre strategy compared to Ferrari, so there are plenty of questions to be answered before we can consider this a job well done.”
Mercedes technical director James Allison was also happy with today’s qualifying result.
Allison said: “That was a slightly nerve-wracking qualifying session from the point of view of the weather, with the ever-present threat of rain, but a little less so from the perspective of our pace, as the car performed strongly with both drivers in all sessions.
“It is really good to have our second front-row lockout of the year and to be starting from the best possible position to remedy the disappointment of two weeks ago in Canada.
“This was also the first time during the weekend that we have allowed the new Power Unit to stretch its legs, and the hard work that has gone into it was a helpful part of our advantage today.
“We are pretty happy to be starting the race on the SuperSoft tyre but know from the analysis of Friday’s long runs that the whole race will be a nip and tuck affair, so we are hoping for a clean run into the first corners tomorrow.”