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A record-breaking afternoon for Mercedes in France

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22nd June, 2019
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Under blue skies at the Circuit Paul Ricard, the Silver Arrows were back at the front as they achieved a record-breaking 63rd front row lockout with Lewis Hamilton taking his 86th career pole position, his 60th for Mercedes.

There was some great action just minutes into Q1 as Daniel Ricciardo positioned himself on the apex of turn 11 to get out of the way of Kimi Raikkonen, who was on a flying lap behind him. This caught Raikkonen unawares as he lost control of the car and was forced to go off the track.

As the Finn re-joined, Romain Grosjean was just about to pass him when the Frenchman lifted off the throttle as he was unsure of where Raikkonen was going to re-join the track.

The stewards decided that they would investigate both the incident between Raikkonen and Ricciardo where Raikkonen was forced to leave the track and the incident between Raikkonen and Grosjean as Raikkonen re-joined the track.

Grosjean eloquently gave his response to Sky Sports’ Natalie Pinkham, simply saying, “It f**ked my lap.”

There was significant track evolution near the end of Q1, which caught out Max Verstappen as the Dutchman was nearly eliminated from qualifying.

Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Lance Stroll was not so fortunate in his Racing Point as he was eliminated from Q1 for the 12th time in a row. His team principal Otmar Szafnauer told Sky Sports’ David Croft and Martin Brundle, “I think Lance was on his way to make it out of Q1 but something happened in the last sector. I don’t know why.”

Q2 brought with it the surprise of the medium tyres being the quickest tyre as the soft tyres couldn’t perform with the track temperature at 56°C. Only three cars got through to Q3 on the softs.

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Sebastian Vettel got married between the Canadian and French Grands Prix and the honeymoon period was well and truly over as he had a disastrous qualifying. The German suffered from technical problems as he reported missing an upshift – he was only able to qualify seventh.

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Vettel’s problems were McLaren’s delight as the team from Woking had their best qualifying performance since 2016 as they locked out the third row of the grid.

My honourable mention this week goes to Antonio Giovinazzi, who despite not setting a respectable lap time in Q3, managed to qualify tenth, outqualifying his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

Out front, though, it was Lewis Hamilton who claimed pole position. He told Paul di Resta, “I’m happy that I got the potential out of the car.”

Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas qualified second, and said, “I think Lewis had a really good lap in the end. It’s been a really strong package that we’ve had here this weekend.”

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Charles Leclerc, meanwhile, was looking ahead to the race start tomorrow. He said, “A good start will be very important. We [Ferrari] are very strong in the straights, they [Mercedes] are good in the corners.”

Ferrari did admit coming into this weekend that they would not have the pace to match Mercedes and that has certainly been proven this afternoon. The grid is slightly mixed up with the McLarens in fifth and sixth and Sebastian Vettel out of position down in seventh so who knows what will happen when the lights go out tomorrow afternoon at 3.10pm local time (11.10pm AEST).