French Grand Prix: Hamilton extends championship lead after first lap chaos

Hamilton takes pole at rain-hit, crash-marred French Grand Prix

Both Mercedes and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing cars opted to set their best Qualifying 2 times on the super-soft compound, whilst Ferrari stayed with the quicker ultra-softs.

"The long-runs felt pretty OK, quite consistent", said Vettel. It s always a challenge when you come to a new circuit, but you re constantly learning new things and I love the challenge of trying to get into the swing of it before everyone else.

As the F1 Grand Prix Circus returns to France for the first time in a decade, it's Lewis Hamilton on pole after qualifying, alongside team mate Bottas.

Hamilton ahead of team-mate Bottas and issued 75-th pole in his career and the first for 10 years in France.

On an initially dry track following heavy rainstorms, which had curtailed final free practice, the air temperature was 22 degrees Celsius and the track 30 when qualifying began.

Two-time champion Fernando Alonso was 16th and McLaren team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne 18th, sandwiching Brendon Hartley in his Toro Rosso.

"It's a difficult one to get the right balance, I tried hard to give everything in the last attempt, and looking back, I pushed too hard", Vettel said after the session.

Hamilton's pace maintained Mercedes supremacy in every session from Friday morning, but as the rain intensified in Q2 he was struggling for comfort in his auto.

Verstappen and Raikkonen joined Hamilton on the podium, Vettel recovered from a first lap incident with Bottas to finish fifth. Vettel will start only third, and Raikkonen will start the race sixth.

Good for Mercedes to hold their nerve despite the forecast for rain halfway through the race - they didn't call in their men to change their tyres or tactics.

Awful day for two Frenchmen - Pierre Gasly hit Esteban Ocon in the first lap, taking them both out of the race, and bringing a safety vehicle out while all the debris was cleared, meaning a chaotic first 20 seconds of the race followed by a prim procession.

The top-ten Q3 shootout began with Ferrari hastening to the fray.

Hamilton, armed with his new Mercedes engine, has been in emphatic form in France, and after topping both practice sessions on Friday, sticking his Mercedes on pole, and then nailing the start, his win never appeared in doubt.

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