French Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton takes POLE on Mercedes front row

French Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton takes POLE on Mercedes front row

French Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton takes POLE on Mercedes front row

Lewis Hamilton claimed the 75th pole of his career as Mercedes dominated qualifying on the French Grand Prix's return to Formula One. It's such a attractive place.

Defending four-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, who trails Vettel by a single point, was 12th, but did not attempt to clock a meaningful lap time.

The session was busy throughout, while many ticket-holders were reportedly held up in long traffic jams on blocked roads in stifling conditions en route to the track from the nearby coastal resort towns.

Hamilton essentially led from start to finish to retake the world championship lead in France, and for his troubles was presented with this magnificent trophy, designed by artist and sculptor Richard Orlinski. His Belgian team mate Stoffel Vandoorne was 18th. "But P3 I'm happy with because the auto should be good in the race".

The 90-minute opening session was red-flagged with a minute remaining when Ericsson lost control at the Beausset corner, spun and hit the barriers hard, with the Sauber vehicle then catching fire.

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There was more gloom at McLaren, with last weekend's Le Mans 24 Hours victor and double world champion Fernando Alonso managing only the 16th best time.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was fourth on the timesheets in both sessions, with Vettel also fifth in both.

The usual top-six of Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull drivers stood atop the field in Q1, though some surprises snuck through with both Saubers advancing to Q2 for the first time this season.

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

Williams and McLaren, two of the sport's most successful teams who are going through hard times, continued to struggle. That victory erased a 14-point advantage held by Hamilton as the British driver finished fifth.

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