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F1 LIVE: French Grand Prix updates as Charles Leclerc starts on pole position


Formula 1 All Time Rivalry. – Hamilton vs Verstappen

Follow live coverage of the French Grand Prix where Charles Leclerc starts on pole position ahead of title rival Max Verstappen.

Leclerc – who breathed fresh life into his championship bid with a comprehensive victory at the last round in Austria a fortnight ago – capitalised on a tow from Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz in qualifying to beat championship leader Verstappen and take pole with Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez third. Lewis Hamilton, starting his 300th Formula One race, is fourth on the grid.

McLaren have brought more upgrades to France than at any other stage of the season, and Lando Norris split the Mercedes drivers to qualify fifth, one place ahead of George Russell. Fernando Alonso starts seventh in his Alpine, three places ahead of teammate Esteban Ocon, with Yuki Tsunoda of AlphaTauri and Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren between them.

Follow all the latest updates and analysis from the Circuit Paul Ricard – the race starts at 2pm (BST).

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Ferrari and Red Bull are ‘in their own league’, Lewis Hamilton acknowledges

Lewis Hamilton said he is powerless to change his downturn in results after qualifying a distant fourth for his 300th Formula One race. Hamilton and his Mercedes team arrived in Le Castellet for Sunday’s French Grand Prix with high hopes of a revival.

A number of updates on Hamilton’s Mercedes machine – combined with the smooth Circuit Paul Ricard asphalt – had been expected to propel the Briton back to the front in his landmark appearance.

But Hamilton, 37, was left to reflect on another sobering afternoon after he finished an eye-watering nine tenths behind Ferrari’s pole-sitter Charles Leclerc. Max Verstappen will join Leclerc on the front row, with Sergio Perez third in the other Red Bull.

Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell starts even further back in sixth – 1.2 sec off the pace – and beaten by McLaren’s Lando Norris, who lines up in fifth. “It’s not that it is disheartening, but you do a lap and you are told it is 1.7 seconds off and you are like ‘what?,” said Hamilton. “And then you do a really good lap and you are 1.1 sec off and you are like ‘wow’. There is nothing I can do in my power to change that.

“Everyone is working as hard as they can. Each weekend we come with little bits to try and improve, but sometimes that doesn’t make a difference and for sure that is difficult for everyone. The top two teams are in their own league. I came here this weekend hoping we would be within three tenths of them, and we are a second back. If it is anything like this it is going to be a while before we win, but it is not impossible.”

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French Grand Prix: Last-chance saloon beckons for Mercedes as F1 says farewell to Circuit Paul Ricard

As odd as it may seem to jump the gun during grand prix No 12 of a 22-race season, this weekend’s French Grand Prix in the picturesque southern region of Le Castellet is something of a last-chance saloon for one team and, more pertinently, one venue.

First, to Circuit Paul Ricard, which only returned to Formula 1 in 2018 after a 28-year absence. It is near-certain that this will be the last time it hosts a race in motorsport’s greatest championship, with the French Grand Prix’s contract expiring this year and no extension forthcoming. With Las Vegas and potentially Shanghai and South Africa returning to the calendar next year, France is bound to come a cropper to F1’s exponential global boom particularly with Monaco remaining, for the time being, a campaign staple 109 miles down the coastline.

Yet this race has long been earmarked – alongside Silverstone three weeks ago – as a key weekend for Mercedes, with the Constructors’ Champions still seeking top-notch performance as they pursue a first win of 2022. If there is even an inkling of the Silver Arrows reviving their season before serious attention turns to next year, it has to come this weekend at a flat, high-speed track. However Friday, following two practice stints, will have set no pulses excitedly racing in the garage, with George Russell finishing P4 in both hour-long sessions.

Lewis Hamilton – who did not run in FP1 as he made way for test driver Nyck de Vries as part of F1’s young driver protocol for 2022 – was fifth on the timesheet later in the afternoon, at a circuit he’s won twice at in 2018 and 2019 and where he will become just the sixth man to reach 300 grands prix in Formula 1. Unbeknownst to him, mind – he insisted he was unaware before being told in Thursday’s press conference.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, speaking after an “underwhelming” first practice and having complained of being in “no man’s land” throughout the season so far, was decidedly unimpressed with their running. “We’re not where we want to be,” he said.

“We’re lacking pace. We’re still not getting the tyres in the optimum window. It’s something we haven’t quite understood.”

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French Grand Prix: Here’s a reminder of the starting grid at Circuit Paul Ricard!

  1. Charles Leclerc – Ferrari
  2. Max Verstappen – Red Bull
  3. Sergio Perez – Red Bull
  4. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
  5. Lando Norris – McLaren
  6. George Russell – Mercedes
  7. Fernando Alonso – Alpine
  8. Yuki Tsunoda – AlphaTauri
  9. Daniel Ricciardo – McLaren
  10. Esteban Ocon – Alpine
  11. Valtteri Bottas – Alfa Romeo
  12. Sebastian Vettel – Aston Martin
  13. Alex Albon – Williams
  14. Pierre Gasly – AlphaTauri
  15. Lance Stroll – Aston Martin
  16. Guanyu Zhou – Alfa Romeo
  17. Mick Schumacher – Haas
  18. Nicholas Latifi – Williams
  19. Carlos Sainz – Ferriari
  20. Kevin Magnussen – Haas
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French Grand Prix: 1 hour until lights out in Le Castellet!

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French Grand Prix: The drivers parade is well underway at Circuit Paul Ricard!

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Teamwork makes the dream work for Ferrari but Mercedes once again fall short

After three practice sessions of back and forth and to-ing and fro-ing, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc produced a lap when it mattered most in qualifying to take pole position at the French Grand Prix, ahead of the Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

The Monegasque, 100 miles or so along from the principality, took the 16th pole of his career with the aid of teammate Carlos Sainz’s tow in the middle sector around Circuit Paul Ricard, posting a time three-tenths quicker than world champion and championship leader Verstappen. And after a first half of the season characterised by questionable Ferrari strategy calls – and a stubbornness not to consistently favour one driver over the other – Sainz’s back-of-the-grid penalty made teamwork the dreamwork under the blazing French sun.

“He did the perfect job and the perfect tow which helped me a lot – I gained two-tenths on that straight,” Leclerc said. “It was a great job from Carlos… without him it would have been much closer, so a huge thanks to him and I hope he can get into the fight. The car feels good but let’s see how it goes tomorrow.”

Lewis Hamilton, on his 300th Grand Prix weekend, maximised the most out of an upgraded Mercedes which is nonetheless still falling short of the top two, qualifying on the second row in fourth, with George Russell two spots further back in sixth; the two Silver Arrows are split by Lando Norris, courtesy of a terrific lap by the Brit in his McLaren.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, however, couldn’t hide his disappointment, with Hamilton nearly a second behind pole-sitter Leclerc as another weekend looks set to pass the constructors champions by. “It’s just not good enough,” Wolff said. “We’re a little bit on the back foot and when it doesn’t come together, freestyling [with set-up] starts. The overall package is just not quick enough.”

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French Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel tunes up in ‘Green Pea’

Sebastian Vettel tuned up for this weekend’s French Grand Prix in a very different car to what he is used to.

The four-time world champion took a 1922 Bamford & Martin TT1 – known as ‘Green Pea’ – for a spin around Circuit Paul Ricard ahead of the race weekend.

“Green Pea holds a very special place in Aston Martin’s heritage, and you can almost feel that century of history beneath your fingertips when at the wheel,” said Vettel.

“The racing spirit and will to win is something that defines Aston Martin, and it’s fantastic to celebrate it this weekend as we bring Green Pea and our heritage in motorsport together with the cutting-edge technology and performance of today’s AMR22 car.”

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French Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton tipped for 400 races

Lewis Hamilton will become just the sixth F1 driver to start 300 races when the lights go out this afternoon.

The seven-time world champion, already 99 points behind Max Verstappen in the standings, has 18 months to run on his Mercedes deal.

So will the Briton reach 400 grands prix?

“We talked a few weeks ago about how long our partnership can go and the number that was discussed was five to 10 years, so we can get to 400,” joked Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

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French Grand Prix: Charles Leclerc starts on pole position

A reminder that Charles Leclerc starts on pole this afternoon after a little help from Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz helped him beat championship leader Max Verstappen in Saturday’s qualifying session.

Sainz had nothing at stake since he was starting from the back of the grid after multiple engine-part changes, so Ferrari used him to give Leclerc a tow on his two runs in Q3.

Leclerc was up by just 0.008 seconds from Verstappen after his first run but the team worked seamlessly on Leclerc’s second run as he beat his own leading time and finished 0.3 seconds ahead of Verstappen and 0.46 clear of Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

Lewis Hamilton qualified in fourth for Mercedes in what will be his 300th Formula One race.

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French Grand Prix: Nico Rosberg would ‘bet his house’ on Verstappen and Leclerc fireworks

Nico Rosberg is certain we will see fireworks in the title battle between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.

Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton enjoyed a fiery contest a year ago but in sharp contrast this year’s title race has been an altogether calm affair.

Rosberg, though, believes that will soon change.

“Honestly, that [lack of drama between Verstappen and Leclerc] surprises me massively because they have gone wheel-to-wheel so much and so intensely,” he told Sky Sports F1. “And that there’s never even been kind of a discussion moment or anything has been a huge surprise.

“But I mean, I’ll bet probably even my house that it’s not going to last for the whole season with the amount of times they go wheel-to-wheel. There must come a moment where there’s going to be some real baggage or different opinions and some kind of incident or something.

“Let’s see, I mean, as a fan, of course, we want to see things heating up a little bit more, but I’m sure we’ll get that.”

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