Lewis Hamilton pips Valtteri Bottas to pole at Paul Ricard, Sebastian Vettel third
French Grand Prix - Qualifying

Lewis Hamilton pips Valtteri Bottas to pole at Paul Ricard, Sebastian Vettel third

Lewis Hamilton took pole position at the French Grand Prix as Mercedes eased to a front-row lockout in qualifying at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

Hamilton used his final attempt to beat teammate Valtteri Bottas to the fastest time by 0.118s after improving in the final sector of the lap to make the difference. The result comes on the same weekend that Mercedes introduced its latest engine upgrade, although Sebastian Vettel -- who finished third -- admitted he was over driving on his final attempt in Q3.

The two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo took fourth and fifth ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who made a mistake on his final attempt in Q3 before hitting traffic when he tried to go for another run.

Mercedes and Red Bull opted to run the slower super-soft compound in Q2, meaning that they will start the race on that tyre, while Ferrari used the faster ultra-soft. The mix in starting tyres will see a mix in strategy as well as a tyre advantage for Vettel and Raikkonen on the long run down to Turn 1.

Carlos Sainz was seventh fastest for on Renault's home turf ahead of an impressive performance by Charles Leclerc in the Sauber.

The two Haas drivers of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean both underperformed in the final session after showing the potential to qualify seventh and eighth earlier in the weekend. Grosjean spun off on his first attempt in Q3 and hit the barriers at Turn 4 while Magnussen came across a slow-moving Raikkonen on his flying lap.

Esteban Ocon missed out on a place in Q3 at his home race by 0.020s to Leclerc's impressive lap, but beat Nico Hulkenberg to 11th by 0.040s, underlining the small margins in the midfield battle. The second Force India of Sergio Perez was eleventh fastest ahead of Pierre Gasly's Toro Rosso and the second Sauber of Marcus Ericsson.

Just one week after winning the Le Mans 24 Hours, Fernando Alonso was dumped out of qualifying in Q1. He was just 0.027s off a place in Q2, but on a weekend when McLaren has come under increasing pressure from the media, such small margins are likely to be overlooked in the analysis of the team's performance.

Brendon Hartley qualified 18th but will start from the back of the grid after a power unit failure in second practice saw him breach his limit of three engines for the season.

The second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne was 17th fastest, 0.137s off Alonso, heaping even more pressure on the team. He was only quicker than the two Williams of Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll, which were both over 0.4s adrift at the back of the grid.

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DERBY OF THE WEEK
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Derby of the week
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31/12/2018
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