What the teams said - Qualifying in France
In final practice, the team in silver looked head and shoulders above their rivals and so it proved. Never troubled, the Mercedes duo were able to make it through Q2 on the medium tyre and thus start on that compound for the race. It was an intra-team battle for pole and Hamilton nailed his lap when it mattered to beat his team mate home by three-tenths after Bottas made a mistake on his final flying run.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:28.319
"It's not an easy track here and Valtteri's been quick all weekend, so I'm really happy to have got the potential out of the car. The team has done a fantastic job. I was chipping away and those last two laps were the ones. The wind picked up and it was quite gusty around the track. On that last lap, I was up nearly half a second but I just lost it in the second to last corner, the gust took the back end. But, I was still up on my previous best, which is the main thing. I'm just really happy, we've been working really hard and overall, it's some great teamwork. It's going to be another hot day tomorrow and the tyres will be a challenge, but I'm excited to see how it will play out."
Valtteri Bottas, 2nd, 1:28.605
"Overall, it's been a pretty good weekend for me so far, but Lewis put in some really strong laps in Q3 which I was unfortunately unable to match. I couldn't get the corner combination of Turn 8 and 9 quite right and that's where I lost one and a half tenths to him in the first run of Q3, otherwise our lap times looked pretty similar. On the second run, I had no tow on the straights which made it almost impossible to improve. It looks like tomorrow will be challenging; the temperatures are forecasted to be very high which will make it tricky for the tyres, so it's not going to be easy. But it's close, I feel good and the points will be given out tomorrow."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"It's been a good weekend for us so far and we've seen a strong Qualifying session. This track suits our car; we have lots of downforce which is an advantage on a circuit that is less power sensitive and has many corner variants. Both drivers were strong today, but ultimately Lewis came out on top. I think there was a bit more wind in the end of Q3, so most drivers were struggling, but Lewis put in a really strong lap and managed to improve on his times. It will be very hot tomorrow, so the challenge will be to get the tyres to the end; it's good to start on the Mediums, but all drivers around us will be on the same tyre. There are two strong drivers in the second row, so we'll need a good initial get-away and good reliability to finish the weekend on a good note."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"Well done to the whole team on another front row lock-out and to Lewis on another pole position. A gust of wind cost him four tenths to himself in the last couple of corners; this just shows how well his lap was going up until that point, that it still put him on pole by a healthy margin. The car has been good to work with today, the changes overnight seemed to help the balance and the bulk of the work this morning was understanding how to get the most out of the tyres on a single lap. Qualifying itself was quite straightforward. We wanted to start the race on the Mediums, so had to get through the second Qualifying session on that compound. As it happened, more teams than ever were successful in doing this, but it's no bad thing that the cars around us will be starting the race on the same rubber. Our focus now moves to the race. We're anticipating the hottest track temperatures that we've raced on all year and Ferrari and Red Bull are often strong in these conditions, so we won't take anything for granted."
Leclerc looked composed all day, and was always the man most likely to push the Silver Arrows. He fell short by six-tenths, despite improving in the blustery conditions that caught out many - including his team mate. Vettel by contrast fluffed his first flying lap in Q3 and aborted after complaining of up-shifting issues, and then couldn't produce on his final timed run. Seventh is his lowest grid slot since Japan last year, and he will need a fighting drive tomorrow to make up lost ground in the championship battle.
Sebastian Vettel, 7th, 1:29.799
“It was a bit of a funny session, as I didn’t get a consistent feel for the car and didn’t extract the maximum out of it, so I can’t be happy with that. On the last lap I just didn’t have the same feeling as during other parts of the session and that’s why we didn’t qualify where we should be. The car was better than where we ended up. On the other hand, I am looking forward to tomorrow. It will be difficult to manage the tyres, but in the race, usually things settle down so it’s much more straightforward and should be more consistent, so let’s see what tomorrow brings.”
Charles Leclerc, 3rd, 1:28.965
“It has been a good weekend so far and I have felt comfortable in the car since FP1. For the past few weeks, my main target has been improving the car set up in order to suit the track evolution from Q1 to Q3. From this point of view, I am satisfied with my personal performance and have definitely made a step forward. On the other hand, we are not where we should be, relative to our competitors in terms of lap times. We have a lot of work to do and I will push to have a good start in order to challenge them during the race tomorrow."
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
"We knew before coming here that this weekend would be more difficult than usual for us. Nevertheless, I think that compared to the Spanish Grand Prix, we have made a small step in the right direction, which is what we were looking to do.
"Sebastian was not happy with his tyres in Q3. However, tomorrow’s race will be long, as are the straights, so there should be plenty of opportunities to move up the order."
It was a mixed day for Red Bull. Practice saw them finish closer to McLaren behind than Ferrari ahead, and indicated they were in a real scrap for the third row of the grid. Come qualifying, Verstappen made it through Q2 on the soft tyres and then put in a good lap to grab an encouraging fourth. Gasly struggled by contrast, having to use the soft tyre to make it to the top 10 and thus will start the race on that less advantageous compound from ninth on the grid.
Max Verstappen, 4th, 1:29.409
“After making some improvements to the car we had a good qualifying compared to practice. In Q3 I think we could have been closer to Ferrari but my final lap wasn’t very clean. Something happened in the last few corners and the car had an odd behavior, so we need to check that, otherwise I think we could have been closer to Ferrari. At the moment it looks like McLaren are very close but we should have three or four tenths on them. Again, we maximised our grid position and it’s good to be on the second row and starting on the medium tyre. I think we need a bit of luck for a podium, like we had last year, as this is not really our track with the circuit layout but tomorrow will be all about tyre management. I’m not sure we can fight Mercedes but I hope we can fight Ferrari. We will of course give it a good go and see how far we can get.”
Pierre Gasly, 9th, 1:30.184
“It was a difficult qualifying overall. In FP3, we were more competitive with P6 but we made some changes after the session and qualifying was tricky as I struggled with grip. I’m quite disappointed with ninth because I think we clearly had more than that, but that’s where we are and we’ll have to fight tomorrow. We start the race on the soft tyre so we know it’s not going to be easy but the long run pace was ok. We will have to look at the strategy and see what we can do to make these tyres last as long as they can so we can fight our way back and recover some positions. I’ll be pushing flat out.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“The circuit evolved quite a lot from Q1 to Q3. I think Max extracted everything possible from the car and he did a very good job today. He managed to get through to Q3 on the medium tyre and qualifying in P4 puts him on the second row of the grid for tomorrow’s race. For Pierre, it was a tougher qualifying. He got through to Q3 by posting the 10th fastest time in Q2 but he then dropped a bit of time on both his runs in corners five and six compared to his teammate. Unfortunately, that resulted in P9 which will be his starting position tomorrow.”
McLaren looked quick all through practice, and carried that form into qualifying. They were the only midfield team to get both cars into Q3, and wound up with Norris fifth and Sainz just behind. A third-row lock out should garner big points for the team, although they might be pressed to keep a recovering Vettel at bay. To cap a brilliant day for the team, they even managed to get both drivers through Q2 on the medium-compound tyre and so can implement the preferential race strategy.
Carlos Sainz, 6th, 1:29.522
“First of all, big congratulations to the whole team and also the team back at the factory. I think this is a consequence of all the hard work that is going on back there, and the upgrades that we’ve been bringing recently. It just shows that we need to keep pushing and keep going in this direction. Secondly, on the personal side, I would say it’s been a bit of a tough weekend, even if it doesn’t look like it.
“I was trying a lot of experimental things yesterday and that probably made me be a bit on the back foot for today. I was not fully comfortable with the car, but I still managed to more-or-less recover and feel better today. We put in some good laps in quali to reach P6 in front of our rivals, and making it to Q3 with the Medium tyre gives us a good fighting chance for the race. Now we have to finish the job tomorrow!”
Lando Norris, 5th, 1:29.418
“Coming into qualifying after yesterday and FP3, things were looking pretty good. Maybe not so much after FP3 – it got a lot closer than it was yesterday – but we were expecting that and weren’t worried. But it was still going to be very close.
“We made a couple of tweaks before quali, which I think helped. We did what we needed to do and I managed to do a decent lap. I messed up the last corner, getting a bit eager and overshot a little bit. Apart from that, it’s obviously a good result – but tomorrow’s the long one. Big thanks to the team.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“P5 and P6, congratulations to everyone here at the track and back home at the factory. It’s McLaren’s best quali result for quite some time. After two solid sessions yesterday and another good free practice this morning, we applied everything we’d learned, including tyre usage, for qualifying.
“After a well-executed quali from the team and both drivers, we managed to achieve all of our objectives, progressing to Q3 and being able to start on Medium tyres, which could be very important in terms of the outcome of the race. But we’re not getting over-excited with this result, we’ll get our heads down and stay fully focussed. Points only get distributed tomorrow.”
Renault looked to be in a fight with McLaren to be best of the rest, but couldn't get both cars into Q3. Hulkenberg fell at the second time of asking after struggling with the rear of his R.S.19, but Ricciardo wound up a decent eighth on the grid and will look for his third points scoring finish in a row. It isn't the result the team will have wanted at their home race, but with impressive long-run pace, they could still have a very decent Sunday.
Nico Hulkenberg, 13th, 1:30.544
“Today was about small margins. We didn’t have a totally smooth Q2, and that’s why we’re outside the top ten. Nothing bad happened, my first lap in Q2 on Mediums was good, but on my second lap, which is supposed to be quicker, I lost the back end into turn eight and that was it. I’ll aim to race hard tomorrow. Our race pace looked good in practice and we’ll aim to keep it clean. There’s potential for points, and we’ll do everything we can to put the car back in the top ten.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 8th, 1:29.918
“I’m content with eighth place today; we kept up our recent run of Q3 appearances. I felt there wasn’t much more lap time left out there and eighth was probably the maximum. I made a mistake on the first Q2 run, so I aborted that and then put the Medium tyre on. It was a risk as it was the first time we had run it all weekend. But clearly the team knew it was going to pay off as I managed a good lap to get through to Q3. The grid tomorrow is interesting with more or less everyone starting on the Mediums. I’ll target the cars ahead and aim for a good race.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“Daniel had a strong session and P8 is a reasonable starting position for the race tomorrow. We have improved our car a lot since yesterday, but not quite enough to be in front of McLaren. Nico unfortunately made a mistake on his second run in Q2, but without that he would most likely have been in Q3. It’s a bit of a mixed result but plenty to work with in the race tomorrow.”
Alfa looked Q3 contenders in final practice, but so often have faded when it mattered. Not today - Giovinazzi made it all the way to the top 10 shoot-out for only the second time, albeit at the expense of his team mate. But with the Finn having free tyre choice in P12 and the Italian stuck with starting on a set of used soft tyres in P10, who will fare the better on Sunday?
Kimi Raikkonen, 12th, 1:30.533
"The new parts we brought to this race have given us something more and we were definitely competitive enough to get into Q3. Unfortunately, I made a mistake on my last Q2 lap, so it wasn’t a surprise to be out of the top ten. We’re still in a good position for the race: we can choose our tyres and the car is working quite well, so I guess we’ll find out how it goes tomorrow.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 10th, 1:33.420
“I am very happy about our performance today. It’s been a positive qualifying and I am very pleased to be back in the top ten. There were a few factors behind this result: the new upgrades package seems to be working well and we were able to make the most of the tyres in these conditions. The track kept improving from lap to lap, so it was important to nail the last one in each part of qualifying. The only negative aspect is that we will be one of only two cars starting on soft tyres, but we can find a strategy that helps us stay in the points. We have good pace and hopefully we can get the good result that has been eluding us for too long.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
"It was a good Saturday for the team and we have a good platform to target a positive result tomorrow. Antonio got the best out of the session and it’s nice to see him back in Q3 for the first time since Baku. Kimi was unlucky to miss out on the top ten for a very small margin, but he will have a free choice of tyres for the race and that should give him a good shot at the points. We’ll work hard to find a good strategy for both cars and come away from the race with something to show for our effort.”
Grosjean called yesterday his worst Friday of the season, and today wasn't much better. He was the surprise faller in Q1, aborting his final flying lap after running wide. The Frenchman failed to score in his home race last year, and you'd think he will struggle tomorrow from a lowly grid slot. Magnussen made Q2 but didn't have the pace to compete for the top 10 in a chastening performance from the American outfit.
Romain Grosjean, 17th, 1:31.626
“It’s been a tough weekend up to now. The car’s been difficult to drive – in terms of balance, and we didn’t do much yesterday, so we were always going to start on the backfoot today. We made some progress, but on the other hand we struggled with some other things. It’s difficult to pin-point, sometimes it’s front-end, sometimes it’s rear-end. It just wasn’t good enough. We just need to analyse everything, get our heads down, and move forward.”
Kevin Magnussen, 15th, 1:31.440
“Qualifying is normally our strong point this season but this hasn’t been the case today. We’ve lacked pace over one lap. As it’s been all year, it’s very disappointing to have a car that we know has good downforce, a well-designed car that should be working, but just isn’t because we can’t make the tyres work. We should be able to do better than qualify P15 and P17 with the car we have. It’s confusing but I’m hoping for a good race tomorrow. We’ll give it everything.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“Obviously a disappointing day. We came here thinking we could get the tyres to work – we didn’t. This is the result. We’ve got some work to do, but let’s see what tomorrow brings. It’ll be difficult to get into the points, but we’ll of course try for it. We have a free tyre choice, so that’s to our advantage. You never give up – we’ll keep on digging away.”
Stroll's poor run in qualifying continues - he was eliminated in Q1 for the 12th straight race, winding up a second slower than his team mate. In truth, the RP19 isn't suited to this track and Perez could only manage P14, but at least has free tyre choice and might have an outside chance of making it to the points, especially if he can keep out of trouble at the start...
Sergio Perez, 14th, 1:30.738
“It has been a difficult weekend up to now and unfortunately we missed out on Q3. We only need a small improvement to start fighting in the top ten so we need to stay positive and continue working in our usual way. I think my qualifying laps were actually quite strong. We pulled everything together at a time when conditions were very difficult and put a good lap together in Q1. But in Q2 the other teams were up to speed and had the edge over us. We did what we could, but realistically I don’t think we had the pace to make the top ten this afternoon. Tomorrow is what counts and we know anything can happen in the race. We need a good start, a strong strategy and good race pace for us to score some points.”
Lance Stroll, 1:31.726
“I’m quite disappointed with that. I felt like I did a good lap with the grip that was available under me, but that’s pretty much where we have been throughout practice. Definitely a frustrating day, but my sights are set on tomorrow. We always look stronger with our race pace and I will give it my all on Sunday.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“We have struggled to find the sweet spot with the cars this weekend and ultimately didn’t challenge for Q3. Both cars made a good step forward compared to final practice, but this track just isn’t playing to our strengths. It’s frustrating not to be quicker in qualifying trim, but we looked more competitive with the long runs on Friday and we know we can race well on Sundays. We will study the strategy options tonight, mindful of the fact that this track is especially demanding on the front tyres, and see what we can do to move up the order tomorrow.”
Kvyat never really figured in qualifying, given he has a grid penalty for exceeding his PU components and thus will start from the back regardless. Albon, though, had a solid session, and was just 0.040s away from making Q3. He starts 11th but has free tyre choice and despite running the older spec Honda PU, looks to be in with a good chance of scoring points.
Daniil Kvyat, 16th, 1:31.564
“I’m happy with how my qualifying went today, it was fun to get a good lap out of my run in Q1. We knew that my race was compromised coming into the weekend due to the penalty, so we focussed primarily on the race setup and put in the most laps we could to be in good shape for Sunday. We can look at this as an opportunity and I hope the hard work we’ve put in for the race will pay off. I’ve had good races from the back of the grid in the past, so tomorrow I’ll try to do the same!”
Alex Albon, 11th, 1:30.461
“I had a bit of a slow start to qualifying as I finished Q1 in P15. I knew the car had a lot more potential and I had a much better lap in Q2, although the wind picked up a bit and I just missed out on Q3. The car was good today - it came down to such fine details which made the difference to make it into the top 10. Obviously, I would have liked to be in Q3, however, starting from P11 is quite good for us because we can choose which tyre we start on for the race. Looking at Friday practice, our long run pace is stronger than our short run, so we’ve got the chance to score some points tomorrow.”
Guillaume Dezoteux, Head of Vehicle Performance
“After a reasonable FP3 session where we improved our balance and tyre management compared to yesterday, we went into Qualifying with the target of getting Alex into Q3.
“The target for Daniil today was to out-qualify George Russell, who will also receive a power unit penalty. He was able to comfortably put in a time to beat Russell’s during his second run which saw him finish the session P16.
“Alex did a good job in the hot conditions and was able to progress to Q2. During his last lap, the wind picked up and we were a little bit too close to Ricciardo in front. This compromised his first sector, but the rest of the lap was strong. We narrowly missed out on Q3 today, but starting P11 doesn’t put us in a bad position for the race as we have a free tyre choice and several strategy options on the table.
“A very hot track temperature is also expected tomorrow which will play an important role for the car performance and tyre degradation. With that in mind, we hope we will have an edge on our direct competitors and bring home some points.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“Since Friday, we have made progress with our overall package and Albon missed out on Q3 by a very small margin, but eleventh is a good place to start, with a free choice of tyre. So far, our first weekend running the Spec 3 Power Unit has gone smoothly on Kvyat’s car and it is performing as we expected. We must now look at the data as usual to prepare for tomorrow’s race.”
Russell kept his qualifying record over his team mate intact, beating Kubica home by nearly half a second. It was a good performance from the rookie, considering he missed running in FP3 after suffering power drop outs. The team changed the ERS module on his car prior to qualifying and thus he will have to start the race from the back of the grid.
Robert Kubica, 20th, 1:33.205
"The laptimes were not great but driving wise I was quite happy. There was a big track evolution at the end of Q1, the track is rubbering quite a lot which is at least helping to enjoy the driving. If you don’t look at the laptimes it doesn’t feel bad to drive, but when you lack performance and general grip then the laptimes reflect this."
George Russell, 19th, 1:32.789
"We maximised today’s qualifying session. This weekend I have only completed a third of the laps as I missed FP1 and FP3, so to put a good lap on the board was pleasing. Overall, I am satisfied with my performance and let’s hope for a good race."
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer
"Both drivers drove good clean laps in qualifying. George did a solid job today to bounce back, having not taken part in FP1 and then lost FP3 due to a Power Unit electrical issue. This resulted in an ERS module change ahead of Q1. Following set-up changes overnight, Robert also did a good job to close the gap and improve throughout qualifying. Overall, we maximised the package available to us today. The team once again performed well operationally, and we must continue with our long-term development plan to bring more performance."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"This was one of the most significant qualifying sessions of the year in terms of pace, with pole position a full 1.7 seconds faster than last year on the equivalent compound, with track temperatures that exceeded 50 degrees centigrade today. We saw the track continue to evolve quite quickly, and as a result of that there was less sliding compared to previous days. With the strategy prediction clearly favouring a start on the medium tyre tomorrow, most of the top 10 opted to run this strategy in Q2. This could lead to an interesting situation at the beginning of the race tomorrow, with a few cars on faster soft tyres starting behind the top eight on the medium compound."