Lewis Hamilton on pole position for French Grand Prix


"I raced in the last French Grand Prix in 2008 and it is fantastic to see so many people here and all the excitement for all of us".

After topping qualifying for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton said it was great to be back at the front of the grid in France.

Mercedes took control and Hamilton clocked the best time in Q1, which ended, as rain began to fall, with both McLarens and both Williams eliminated - a sad contrast to the pomp of the once-great British teams, when the French race was last held at the Paul Ricard Circuit 28 years ago. With so many spectators stuck outside the venue, the large grandstands erected around the circuit remained sparsely populated throughout both practice sessions.

"Naturally, every time this championship comes around, you hope for something special to happen for England". "But we won't really know its full potential until tomorrow when everyone gets to turn their engines up. To be the one raising the flag, hopefully against the German flag, just like we are hoping the England football team does against Germany, is an honour and a privilege".

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Martínez added: "It was a knock that he had late in the first half and he tried to play through it and he couldn't". Belgium will assess the fitness of all three players within the next 48 hours.

Mercedes performed a late U-turn on a decision to unleash their revised power unit in Montreal which contributed to Hamilton finishing only fifth and losing his championship lead to Vettel.

Mercedes brought an engine upgrade to France, one race later than planned, with their non-executive chairman Niki Lauda saying the world champion team was now "back on track".

"The championship is all about tiny margins", Hamilton added. "I think the team have done a great job throughout the weekend".

"The fact that we've been competitive so far in most of the recent races makes us quite confident for the next ones. I trust the team, and if we have to use the older-specification engine, I am not anxious".

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Hamilton also had a close call when forced to swerve off course to avoid ramming a slow-going Stoffel Vandoorne and slalomed around two rows of bollards before returning to the flow.

The Spaniard, 36, completed the second leg in his pursuit of motor racing's Triple Crown with victory at Le Mans last weekend, but was coy on whether he will stay in F1 next season.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen qualified fourth with Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo fifth and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen sixth.

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