We are game on for another cracking race this weekend in France as Max Verstappen just pipped world champion Lewis Hamilton to Pole at Paul-Ricard in Le Castellet.
After a scintillating race last time out in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku that saw Verstappen crash and Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas out of the points, everything pointed to a battle royale in France.
And the stage is set. Hamilton struggled to keep pace with the Red Bulls and Bottas throughout practice, but once again put together a lap that should have topped the time sheets, getting it together when it mattered. However, the young pretender to the throne and championship leader — Verstappen — would not be upstaged and ground out a brilliant lap in Q3 to deny the British veteran pole No. 101.
Verstappen had qualified fourth in his both of his previous two races at Paul Ricard. “So far it’s been a really positive weekend on the track,” Verstappen said. “Of course no points are scored (qualifying), but for us great day and we have to finish it off and try to get 25 points that we lost in Baku.”
Hamilton and Bottas swapped chassis this weekend and Bottas said he’s off to a much better start than in Baku, where he qualified 10th and finished 12th. But Hamilton said he’s been “generally unhappy in the car all weekend” and the qualifying effort was a breakthrough.
“It’s been a really, really hard weekend, mentally and not just talking physically, but trying to get the car into a happy place,” Hamilton said. “You wouldn’t believe how many changes I’ve made since practice one, going around and around kind of chasing our tail and ended up coming back to something similar to where we started.”
Mick Schumacher made it through to Q2 for the first time in his F1 career, but only after his crash ended Q1 25 seconds earlier. The rear of his Haas spun and Schumacher went backward across the runoff before hitting a barrier.