Verstappen’s Bull charges to pole at the French GP Qualifying
With the Canadian GP that was scheduled to be held last week was cancelled, Formula One has returned this weekend at Paul Ricard Circuit for the French GP. Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing topped the timesheet with Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes-AMG F1 in second and his teammate Valtteri Bottas, a close third. The qualifying session had seen two red flags caused by Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher in Q1. Schumacher also pulled the Haas into Q2, but couldn’t start the session due to a broken suspension. Here's what went down on Saturday.
Qualifying Round 1
The temperatures around the Paul Ricard circuit were lower when compared to the Free Practice sessions held on Friday. The air temperature was at 28 degrees Celsius while the track temperature was holding at 43 degrees Celsius with 11.5 kmph of cross winds. The round started and was quickly halted with a red flag as Yuki Tsunoda lost the car out of turn 1 and slid off to hit the barriers. He hit the barriers with the rear end of his Alpha Tauri and could not find a gear in the transmission to get himself back to the pits. This was Tsunoda’s third red flag in three consecutive qualifying sessions. Once the session restarted, drivers found their times being deleted due to track limits, especially out of turn 6. Lance Stroll was the first victim of the tricky Turn 6 track limits as he went wide on the exit and got his time deleted by the FIA stewards. With time running short, Stroll had just enough time to put in one hot lap and just as he was completing the first sector, Mick Schumacher lost the rear of his Haas at Turn 6 which brought the session to a premature ending with a second red flag.
Nicholas Latifi (Williams Racing), Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo Racing), Nikita Mazepin (Haas F1), Lance Stroll (Aston Martin Cognizant F1) and Yuki Tsunoda (Scuderia Alpha Tauri) were eliminated at the end of Q1.
Qualifying Round 2
This round saw most of the teams running the session on medium compound tyres. During this round, the tyre which is used to set the best lap time, will be the tyre used to start the race. The soft compound tyres weren’t able to last enough laps to be considered for a race strategy. Lando Norris was a victim of the Turn 6 track regulations in Q2 as he couldn’t keep all four wheels on the track and that resulted in his lap time being deleted. Fernando Alonso was finally showing signs of improvements with the Alpine car and was outgunning his teammate Esteban Ocon in both the rounds of qualifying. Mick Schumacher had earned a broken front suspension and possibly other damages during his crash in Q1 so while he did qualify for Q2, he could not run.
Esteban Ocon (Alpine F1), Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin Cognizant F1), Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo Racing), George Russell (Williams F1), Mick Schumacher (Haas F1) were eliminated at the end of Q2.
Qualifying Round 3
The air temperature had cooled down by Q3 but the track temperature was still at a warm 44 degrees Celsius. All the teams were out on the red soft tyres. Gasly was the final victim of the track limits with his lap times being deleted. There was a lot of back and forth going with the top four positions as the Red Bulls and the Mercedes were constantly dethroning each other for the provisional pole. In the end, Verstappen grabbed the pole position with a 1:29:990. The Mercedes boys were finally beaten to the pole on a circuit that was perceived to be a Mercedes dominant track.
The results for the Qualifying round 3 are as follows :
The Paul Ricard Circuit was always considered to be a Mercedes track as they had a dominant track record since the circuit’s reappearance in 2018. But the Red Bull finally proved its salt by going toe to toe with their rival on a circuit which does not best suit the high rake philosophy. If Verstappen can keep the charge of the Mercedes behind him, then he can extend the lead in the championship and finally put a dent in Silver Arrows dominance. You can see the race on Star Sports Select HD2 and Hotstar from 6:30 pm IST on Sunday.