Monday, 22 April, 2019

Hamilton fastest as Ericsson has fiery crash in France

Lewis Hamilton Claims 75th Career Pole at Circuit Paul Ricard French Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton takes POLE on Mercedes front row
Cassandra Castillo | 27 June, 2018, 08:11

Privately, it is understood that Mercedes are confident their latest-specification power unit will be ready for Formula One's first return to France since 2008, but a failure to provide Hamilton with a new engine would come as a significant blow to the Englishman in his hunt for a fifth championship.

Hamilton, a point behind Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel after seven races, complained about his car's handling over the radio in the first session but still put in a best time of one minute 32.231 seconds.

Daniel Ricciardo has moved up the rankings, with Bottas losing ground despite a good comeback drive after the early crash.

It is calling it a "Phase 2.1" engine, explaining that "we would have had a Phase 2 in Canada" and that its High Performance Powertrains division in Brixworth has been able to introduce "added goodness" in the delay.

"This place is lovely, it's really stunning down here", Hamilton said of a circuit that last hosted a grand prix in 1990 and represents a new challenge for a man who has won everywhere else on the calendar.

"I don't think we maximised the potential of the vehicle in qualifying today".

Mercedes appear to be the team to beat after Friday practice, with Hamilton comfortably outpacing the Ferraris, but they didn't have a completely faultless session.

More news: Can Lionel Messi save Argentina at the 2018 World Cup?

Charles LeClerc was the story of this session as he advanced to Q3 for the first time in his career, a respectable feat for the rookie Ferrari junior.

The morning session ended with a scare for Sauber's Marcus Ericsson after his vehicle burst into flames when he spun out of control and slammed into a barrier.

This was clear evidence not only of Hamilton s pure pace, but also his innate ability to learn a new circuit very quickly.

And he will be one of the first in the paddock to congratulate two-time champion Fernando Alonso of McLaren on his win in last weekend's Le Man 24-Hour race, a second part of his bid to land motor racing's "triple crown" of Monaco, Le Mans and the Indy 500.

"I'm really happy with the pole, but I always strive for perfection and there was some time left on the track, so I still have stuff to work on", he said.

Brendon Hartley will start the race from last place after Toro Rosso had to change his Honda engine on Friday.

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