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Hamilton takes pole for French GP

NEWS STORY
22/06/2019

So what's it going to be, we ask ourselves, ahead of this afternoon's session, and, indeed, the race? Will it be Bottas 2.0, as witnessed yesterday and this morning, or will it be Bottas 1.0?

While Valtteri has looked strong so far this weekend, teammate Hamilton has struggled, though, as we all know, you write off the Briton at your peril, for he usually comes back stronger than ever.

That said, he does have off weekends, though whether this is going to be one of them remains to be seen.

Certainly, on the evidence thus far, the only threat to either Bottas or Hamilton comes from the guy in the other silver car.

Ferrari posted some impressive sector times earlier, mainly in S2 which includes much of the Mistral Straight, but in the twisty final sector the SF90 was no match for the W10 and both drivers were over 0.4s off the pace.

Ferrari's issues however are nothing compared to Red Bull, where Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly are under serious pressure this weekend from both McLaren and Renault, and we are all aware of how galling it would be for the Austrian team to be beaten by its former 'partner', especially if its former driver was at the wheel.

Alfa Romeo is also looking strong, though it is unlikely that Kimi Raikkonen will be giving Max much to worry about this afternoon.

At the other end of the timesheets, the Racing Points are going to have to work hard to make the cut into Q2, while Toro Rosso and Haas are also struggling, though both will be comforted by the fact that, as ever, Williams has reserved at least two of those Q1 spots.

Looking ahead to Q2, and indeed Sunday, it is likely that the Silver Arrows pair will seek to make it into Q3 on the mediums, which is the tyre that looks best for tomorrow's opening stint.

This morning's final practice session saw less mistakes than yesterday, but it wasn't exactly incident free, and both Mercedes had their moments in a session which saw drivers continue to struggle for grip.

All that aside, in the moments before Q1, Mercedes tweets a picture showing that Bottas has had porridge for lunch. Lewis should be afraid... very afraid.

Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is 26.2 degrees C, while the track temperature is 56.5 degrees.

The lights go green, and Norris leads a train of cars out on to the track, including Sainz, Raikkonen, Albon, Grosjean and Magnussen. Unsurprisingly, all are on softs.

Grosjean looks set to post the first time of the afternoon but aborts his lap after coming up across a slow Raikkonen and Ricciardo who have both had offs. The Finn went off at T11, and one has to wonder whether the stewards will be happy with the manner he rejoined the track - Grosjean certainly wasn't.

Norris posts 32.708, but is demoted when Albon posts 32.573 and Sainz 32.010. Stroll goes third ahead of Magnussen, Kvyat and Perez.

Incidentally, Kvyat is to start from the pitlane after a complete change of engine.

Vettel posts 31.846, but moments later teammate Leclerc posts 31.441.

A 31.378 sees Bottas go quickest, while Hamilton can only manage third (31.461).

Raikkonen goes seventh with a 32.274, behind Sainz and Gasly.

Verstappen can only manage a disappointing 11th (32.636), 0.6s down on his teammate.

Ricciardo goes sixth with a 32.045 as drivers continue to be caught out by the changed conditions since this morning.

Leclerc goes quickest with a 30.647, but Bottas responds with a 30.550. Hamilton takes second with a 30.609.

On the previous laps, both Mercedes drivers appeared to struggle straightening their cars exiting the final corner.

PBs in all three sectors see Verstappen improve to 4th with a 31.327, though moments later Vettel improves with a 31.075 to retake the position.

Less than 5 minutes to go and along with the Williams, Kvyat, Magnussen and Perez comprise the drop zone, with Stroll, Grosjean and Albon hovering.

Kvyat goes sixth with a 31.564, even though he is to start from the pitlane.

Sainz leapfrogs Verstappen with a 31.073, only for Norris to post 30.989.

The incident involving Raikkonen and Ricciardo will be investigated after the session. As will the Raikkonen, Grosjean incident.

A whole heap (?) of cars on track as drivers seek a late improvement.

The timing screen looks like a St Patrick's Day tribute as PBs appear all over the place.

Hulkenberg goes quickest of all in S2, as Raikkonen goes fourth overall.

Hulkenberg goes fourth, as Verstappen tumbles down the sheets.

Ricciardo and Perez both improve, as Verstappen slips to 14th.

Raikkonen goes off ahead of Grosjean and as the Finn rejoins the track the Haas driver has to slow and consequently fails to improve.

Stroll fails to make the cut, while Magnussen goes 12th.

Verstappen survives, as does Vettel, who also looked to be in danger.

Quickest is Bottas, ahead of Hamilton, Leclerc, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Perez, Raikkonen, Norris, Sainz and Vettel.

Bottas leads the way as Q2 gets underway. As expected, the Finn is on mediums, as is his teammate. Sainz and Verstappen also opt for the yellow-banded rubber, as do the Ferraris.

Bottas posts a 30.024, but Hamilton crosses the line at 29.520, the fastest time of the weekend thus far.

Hulkenberg goes third and Sainz fourth, until both are demoted when Verstappen takes third with a 30.572.

Gasly, on softs, can only manage 7th (30.731), while Vettel posts a disappointing 30.641 to go fifth.

Ricciardo aborts his lap as Giovinazzi and Raikkonen go ninth and tenth.

Bottas raises the bar with a 29.437, the Finn quickest overall in the final sector. However, it was in S2 where he was previously losing out to Hamilton.

Hulkenberg heads out again, this time on the mediums, while Ricciardo, who has yet to post a time, also heads out again, this time on mediums also.

Likewise Norris, who has yet to post a time, having previously gone out on the softs.

It's revealed that Verstappen's first time was deleted for exceeding the track limits at T6.

Norris goes seventh, but is demoted moments later when Ricciardo stops the clock at 30.369.

Less than 3 minutes remain, and Albon, Perez, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen and Magnussen comprise the drop zone, with Gasly, Hulkenberg and Norris hovering.

For the final assault, most are now on softs.

Magnussen fails to improve, and remains 15th.

Hamilton goes quickest in S1 but will likely abort the lap, he's on softs and is clearly scrubbing them for tomorrow.

Despite a big, big wobble, Norris goes fourth with a 30.019.

Albon goes tenth, as Hulkenberg fails to improve, as does Raikkonen.

A late improvement sees Leclerc go fourth, only to be demoted when Vettel bangs in a 29.506.

Quickest is Bottas, ahead of Vettel, Hamilton, Leclerc, Norris, Verstappen, Sainz, Ricciardo, Giovinazzi and Gasly. An impressive performance from Giovinazzi.

We lose Albon, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Perez and Magnussen.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Le Castellet, here.

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