Hamilton on pole in France with Vettel third

Boullier Mc Laren must focus on reliability			Image by Steven Tee  LAT

The four-time world champion clocked a best lap in one minute and 30.029 seconds to grab the 75th pole position of his career ahead of Bottas, giving himself a flawless chance to regain the initiative in the title race in Sunday's race.

Vettel, who now has a one point lead in the Formula One title race over Hamilton, said: "For us, qualifying started a bit slow; obviously with the conditions it was a little bit tricky".

"It wasn't too bad".

But for France there was a further shift, with the race moved back a further hour "in order to avoid clashes with other major sports events like the FIFA World Cup" - and specifically England's World Cup group match with Panama.

"It was not a bad lap, but not flawless either", he said. I've been struggling to get ideal laps this week - I was catching up rung by rung, but a one-two here is great. Either it sticks with the old engine - which would be its eighth race - and introduce the new unit in Austria or take the risk and introduce the new unit this weekend. "When we don't have a race weekend I keep racing on my own". "I think the team have done a great job throughout the weekend. It is nice to be here - there's a lot of colour, so it really comes alive".

Sunday's race will be the first French Grand Prix since Magny-Cours in 2008 and the first held at the southern Le Castellet circuit since 1990.

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Hamilton, out of contract at the end of the season, is edging closer to signing a new Mercedes deal, but Fernando Alonso's future at McLaren remains uncertain.

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 vehicle.

The Scuderia Ferrari driver ended just under four-tenths of a second shy of Lewis Hamilton's pole setting time at the Circuit Paul Ricard, while Valtteri Bottas also got ahead of the German to make it an all-Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport front row.

The latest specification engine had been due for introduction in Canada two weekends ago but that was postponed at short notice due to concerns about an unspecified "quality issue".

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel could only manage third place on the grid, behind his Mercedes rivals. "Obviously it would have helped us in Montreal, but we are here now and now we are in the first row, so for sure that's good".

Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly was 14th, while Marcus Ericsson made it through to Q2 but finished slowest in the session, unable to replicate the heroics of team-mate Leclerc. The top-ten Q3 shootout began with Ferrari hastening to the fray. A red flag was deployed, which meant that team-mate Magnussen had to abort his first run.

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