Lewis Hamilton Claims 75th Career Pole at Circuit Paul Ricard

Image AFP  Gerard Julien

Image AFP Gerard Julien

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain sits in his vehicle in the pits during qualifying at the Paul Ricard racetrack, in Le Castellet, southern France, Saturday, June 23.

Kimi Raikkonen restored some pride for Ferrari, at least, by taking the third spot on the podium after sliding past Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo six laps from the end.

After banging wheels with Hamilton in Azerbaijan, crashing out in Singapore, tangling with Hamilton and Verstappen at the start in Mexico, and running off the road at April's Azerbaijan Grand Prix, this was Vettel's fifth costly mistake in 12 months.

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.

Hamilton's main challenger for the fastest time at the Paul Ricard Circuit was teammate Valtteri Bottas, who was the second quickest ahead of points leader Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari.

But while Hamilton celebration pole position number 75 of his F1 career, there were stories galore up and down the field.

The four-time world champion said he will try to do two things at once - prepare for the race and support England when they play Panama. "It is going to be close all season".

"For me, it is definitely disappointing because the team had a chance for a one-two", Hamilton said.

Hamilton s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who was second in opening practice, was hit by a water leak in the afternoon and wound up seventh after being prevented from completing the second session.

When the top three were asked about the severity of Vettel's penalty in the post-race press conference, Verstappen joked: "Yeah, I think next time you see Seb you should ask him to change his style, obviously it's not acceptable!"

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

"I am really excited to come to the first grand prix at Paul Ricard for a long time and to be on the front row is a great showing for the team".

The luckless New Zealander will start Sunday's race from the back of the grid after being handed a heavy penalty for replacing engine parts.

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