F1 Drivers’ Championship leader Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton by almost three tenths of a second to claim pole position for tomorrow’s 2021 FIA Formula 1 French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard. Valtteri Bottas took will line up in third place on the grid ahead of Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Pérez
The opening Q1 segment got off to a stuttering start and the hour-long session was barely three minutes old when the action had to halted. AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda tried too too much kerb in Turn 1 and spun. He slide backwards off track in Turn 2 and hit the barriers. Apart from severe vibrations at the rear of his car as hew slid across the run-off the impact to the back of his car did not seem bad but after reporting that he had no gears race control red-flagged the session.
After a 10-minute delay the action resumed and Verstappen vaulted to the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:31.001, eclipsing Bottas by more than six tenths of a second. Pérez then shuffled the Finn down to third place ahead of Hamilton. The Briton made a second attempt, however, and his improved lap time of 1:31.237 earned him P3 ahead of Pérez.
In the final moments of the session Haas’ Mick Schumacher crashed at Turn 6 and the red flags were shown for the second time and race control announced that with less than a minute on the clock the session would not be restarted. The stoppage meant that a number of drivers were not able to complete final flying laps and Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen, Haas’ Nikita Mazepin and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll were eliminated without getting an opportunity to escape the drop zone.
In Q2 the majority of the remaining field headed out on medium tyres and in the first runs Pérez took an early lead with a lap of 1:30.971, a tenth ahead of Verstappen. Hamilton, who sat sixth after his first flying lap extended his run for a second attempt and he duly took top spot with a lap of 1:30.959.
Both Red Bulls and both Mercedes drivers went out for the final runs but while Bottas and Hamilton completed another medium-tyre flyer, with Bottas taking top spot on 1:30.735 and Hamilton improving, both Pérez, and Verstappen backed out of their laps leaving the top two placings to the Mercedes pair.
Eliminated at the end of Q2 were Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, with Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel exiting in P12 ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Williams’ George Russell.
In the first runs of Q3 Verstappen seized an early advantage, claiming provisional pole with a lap of 1:30.325, almost four tenths of a second ahead of Hamilton who slotted into P2. Pérez grabbed P3 a little under two tenths clear of Bottas.
But if there were any thoughts that the final runs would be a comfortable march to pole for the Dutchman they were dismissed as Verstappen and his chief title rival raised the level again in the final runs.
The pair traded purple sectors across through but when Verstappen crossed the line it was in a time of 1:29.990, 0.258 seconds ahead of Hamilton, and a fifth career pole position belonged to the Red Bull driver.
Bottas jumped ahead of Pérez in the final run and the Mexican will start fourth ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, AlphjaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. Lando Norris will start in P8 for McLaren ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and the second McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo.
2021 FIA Formula 1 French Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:29.990 6 233.705
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:30.248 0.258 0.287 6 233.037
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:30.376 0.386 0.429 6 232.707
4 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda 1:30.445 0.455 0.506 6 232.530
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:30.840 0.850 0.945 6 231.519
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:30.868 0.878 0.976 6 231.447
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:30.987 0.997 1.108 6 231.145
8 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:31.252 1.262 1.402 6 230.473
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 1:31.340 1.350 1.500 6 230.251
10 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 1:31.382 1.392 1.547 6 230.145
11 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:31.736 1.001 1.103 6 229.257
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:31.767 1.032 1.137 6 229.180
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:31.813 1.078 1.188 6 229.065
14 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:32.065 1.330 1.466 6 228.438
15 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 1:32.942 1.941 2.133 7 226.283
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:33.062 2.061 2.265 7 225.991
17 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:33.354 2.353 2.586 7 225.284
18 Nikita Mazepin Haas/Ferrari 1:33.554 2.553 2.805 7 224.802
Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 2’12.584 41.583 45.695 7 158.625
Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda 2