Title rivals share front row for French GP
By Mat Coch
Sunday 20th June, 2021 - 12:28am
Championship rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton will line up together on the front row for the Formula 1 French Grand Prix.
Verstappen claimed his second pole position of the season in qualifying, besting Hamilton by more than 0.2s.
Valtteri Bottas will line up third in the second Mercedes, while Sergio Perez will line up fourth in Red Bull’s second charger.
It was an interrupted session, with red flags bookending Qualifying 1.
The first came when Yuki Tsunoda crashed at Turn 2 just as the first drivers began their flying laps.
The Japanese driver climbed too high on the apex kerbing at Turn 1, unsettling the car which duly unloaded him into the wall a corner later.
He was unable to get the AlphaTauri going again, and despite his unwillingness to climb out eventually had to concede his qualifying was over.
The session resumed with 14 minutes remaining, Charles Leclerc the first driver to set a time.
That was a 1:33.187s but was quickly eclipsed by most every other runner on track.
Pierre Gasly shot to the top of the totem with a 1:31.898, briefly holding provisional pole before Bottas crossed the line in 1:31.669s and Verstappen in 1:31.001s.
Bottas’ lap was scruffy in the final sector, yet still it was faster than what Hamilton could muster, the Englishman recording a 1:31.692s.
The seven-time champ carried on for another timed lap, improving to 1:31.237s to move up to second best.
With Tsunoda’s crash eliminating him from proceedings, he was joined on the sidelines by Lance Stroll, Nikita Mazepin, Kimi Raikkonen, and Nicholas Latifi.
Their fate was sealed courtesy of a red flag for Mick Schumacher, the German clouting the wall at Turn 6.
Exiting the corner, the rear end got away from the Haas driver, who impacted the barrier with the left-rear wheel before the left-front also made contact.
It was especially bad news for Stroll, the Aston Martin driver having not set a lap in the session meaning he’ll start 19th on the grid – or potentially 18th should Schumacher need a new gearbox.
Qualifying 2 began with the bulk of runners heading out on the medium compound tyres, the exception being George Russell on softs.
With Schumacher out, only 14 runners took part in the session, the Alpine’s of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon remaining in the shed while everyone took to the circuit as the track went green.
Carlos Sainz set the early pace at 1:31.146s with Bottas slotting in second and Gasly third until Verstappen completed his first timed lap.
That saw him stop the clocks at 1:31.090s to go fastest by 0.066s, which became second fastest when Perez logged a 1:30.971s.
Out of sequence to the bulk of the field, Ocon and Alonso headed out for their flying laps with nine minutes remaining.
They recorded times good enough for the Top 10, though Ocon found himself bumped when Lando Norris set a timed lap – his first having been deleted for track limits – and Hamilton’s second flying lap which moved him fastest.
With the exception of Norris, who was called into the pits, the field as one began a final flying lap with a minute left on the clock.
Exiting the session were Schumacher (who never joined it following his Q1 crash), Russell, Antonio Giovinazzi, Sebastian Vettel, and Ocon.
Daniel Ricciardo snuck through in 10th, while Norris held on to seventh to confirm their places in Qualifying 3.
Gasly was the first to set a lap, though that was deleted for track limits, leaving Ricciardo to set the first timed effort at 1:31.633s on a set of medium tyres.
Predictably, it did not stand for long as a host of others quickly bettered it, including Verstappen on a 1:30.325s, and Hamilton with a 1:30.711s.
All 10 surviving drivers circled back to the garages before heading back out on track in the final three minutes for a final push lap.
Leclerc and Gasly both improved, as did Sainz as the leader board changed rapidly.
Behind them, Verstappen and Hamilton were closely matched to the first split, the former setting a 1:29.990s to claim provisional pole.
Hamilton could not match it, recording a 1:30.248s to claim second, bumping Bottas to third and Perez to fourth.
Sainz’s effort left him fifth from Gasly, Leclerc, then came Norris, Alonso, and Ricciardo rounding out the Top 10.
It was Verstappen’s second pole position of the season, and the first time Mercedes hasn’t been on pole in France since it returned to the F1 calendar in 2018.
Sunday’s Formula 1 French Grand Prix is set to begin at 23:00 AEST.
Results: Formula 1 French Grand Prix, Qualifying
|1||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||1:31.001||1:31.080||1:29.990|
|4||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing||1:31.560||1:30.971||1:30.445|
|6||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlphaTauri||1:31.898||1:31.353||1:30.868|
|12||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||1:32.132||1:31.767|
|13||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||1:32.722||1:31.813|
|17||7||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||1:33.354|
|19||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||2:12.584|
|20||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Scuderia AlphaTauri|