For the first time since 2008, the F1 world championship is set to return to France. This time it will be at the Circuit De Paul Ricard for the first time since 1990. The circuit, which takes its name from a French liquor magnate, is one of the most visually hypnotising courses on the calendar (literally). It also features long straights connected by 14 turns which range from wide, sweeping corners to 100+ degree hairpins.

The circuit seemed to favor the Mercedes team, as Lewis Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas locked out P1 and P2 respectively on the grid. Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing finished fourth and fifth, with Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari finishing third, and his teammate Kimi Raikkonen finishing sixth. The breakout star of qualifying, however, was none of these people. It was Charles LeClerc of Sauber, who finished an astonishing eighth, a career high for the rookie driver. As of late, Ferrari (eager to pounce on young talent) has been angling to replace Kimi Raikkonen with the young Frenchman after a series of brilliant drives delivered in an underperforming car.

Not everyone had a brilliant weekend, though. Romain Grosjean had a nasty crash in the third session, placing him 10th on the grid. In contrast to his teammate LeClerc, Marcus Ericsson’s session was also cut short when his car was engulfed in flames. Ericsson was unharmed.

Things continue to worsen for McLaren as the Circuit De Paul Ricard saw McLaren’s worst qualifying finishes so far this season. Fresh off a 24 Hours of Le Mans victory, Fernando Alonso was forced to settle for 16th with teammate Stoffel Vandoorne taking 18th after both cars dropped out early in Q1.

Other highlights include Hamilton taking his 75th pole position, an improvement on his own record. His teammate Bottas also claimed his third front-row qualifying session in four races although he has yet to win a race this season.

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Image credits:

Title image: motorsport.com

Image 1:motorlat.com

Image 2: Autosport.com

Image 3: Autosport.com

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