Le Castellet (France) (AFP)
Lewis Hamilton is no longer the king of France: Max Verstappen (Red Bull) deprived the Briton of pole position in the Formula 1 French Grand Prix, on the Paul-Ricard circuit in Le Castellet, on Saturday.
"So far, it's a very good weekend on a track that has not been favorable to us in the past," said the Dutchman.
The leader of the championship (with four lengths ahead of Hamilton) intends to "drive home the point (in the race on Sunday) and try to take the 25 points lost in Baku", during the previous round, which saw him abandon while 'he was leading.
Since the return of the event to the calendar in 2018 and 2019, the seven-time British world champion was on pole ... and winner.
This time, he is "uncomfortable" in his car but still managed to finish second in qualifying thanks to "last minute changes in settings" and a "very clean" session.
It was enough to outperform his Mercedes teammate, Finland's Valtteri Bottas, and second Red Bull of Mexican Sergio Pérez, who will share the second row on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
Not enough, however, to beat Verstappen.
Despite everything, Hamilton "enjoys the fight and will continue to attack and give everything."
"Red Bull (which has 26 points more than Mercedes among manufacturers, note) was one or two tenths faster on the long stints in free practice but our car has made good progress since then", he assures us.
"Starting second gives us a chance to respond at least at the first corner. And the strategy can be interesting", with the Mercedes interspersed between the Red Bulls.
- "A little rain" ?
The Briton, a past master in these conditions, would not spit on "a little rain" during the GP, while thunderstorms are announced over a large part of the country.
Even more than Verstappen, who was injured in Azerbaijan after one of his tires failed, Hamilton needs a good result this week.
The last two races were indeed disastrous for him.
In poor performance in Monaco, he only finished 7th.
Then he had to settle for 15th place in Baku due to failed braking.
Behind the two "top teams", the fight in the middle of the table brings together the usual protagonists, but in a different order.
The third row of the 7th round of the season goes to the Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr (Ferrari) and the French Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri).
Follow Monegasque Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), Briton Lando Norris (McLaren), Spaniard Fernando Alonso (Alpine) and Australian Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren).
The second Frenchman Esteban Ocon (Alpine) will be 11th on the starting grid, in front of 15,000 spectators divided since Friday into three stands of 5,000 people (which makes this GP the most important event organized in France since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic).
It is also a milestone for F1.
Until then this season, the premier category of motorsport had welcomed at best 7,500 spectators per day in Monaco at the end of May, but it hopes for a return to full capacity during the next rounds in Austria or in Great Britain.
Finally, for the German of Haas Mick Schumacher (15th on the grid subject to penalty) and for the Japanese of AlphaTauri Yuki Tsunoda (last), it will be necessary to be forgiven in the race for the crashes which ended their qualifications prematurely. .
© 2021 AFP