French GP: Verstappen fends off Mercedes to claim pole in qualifying

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Max Verstappen was simply too good for Mercedes as he took a commanding pole position for the French Grand Prix.

The Dutchman was the only man to go sub-90s around Circuit Paul Ricard as he claimed his second pole of the season and first since the opening race in Bahrain.

Championship rival Lewis Hamilton will start alongside in second after a solid recovery from a tricky practice, with teammate Valtteri Bottas pipping Sergio Perez into third in the second Mercedes.


A spin for Yuki Tsunoda exiting Turn 1 causes an early red flag, with the Japanese driver unable to get his AlphaTauri out from the barrier.

Verstappen would set the pace ahead of Hamilton at the front, as Perez put himself ahead of Bottas in third.

The battle to avoid elimination was brought to an early end by a crash for Mick Schumacher at Turn 6, requiring the second red flag of the segment.

Before that, the German was actually in the Q2 places in P14, with his crash resulting in early exits for Kimi Raikkonen and Lance Stroll.

George Russell would make the cut by just 0.005s, as Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi was the first driver knocked out in 16th.

Raikkonen would be 17th with Nikita Mazepin 18th. Stroll had his first lap deleted for track limits so wouldn't set a time in 19th and Tsunoda will bring up the grid after his off.


Of the 14 participants in Q2, only Russell chose the soft tyre with the rest initially going for mediums.

Bottas set the pace fractionally ahead of Hamilton as the Red Bull drivers didn't improve on their initial Q2 laps.


There was disappointment for Esteban Ocon as he missed out on the top 10 in 11th for Alpine, with Sebastian Vettel just behind in 12th for Aston Martin.

Antonio Giovinazzi switched to the soft for his second run but could do no better than 13th. Russell followed in 14th with Schumacher set to start 15th after his crash in Q1


The fight for pole began with Verstappen nearly four-tenths faster than Hamilton after the first run, as Perez got ahead of Bottas into third.

Mercedes hit back on the second run as Hamilton and Bottas improved to second and third respectively.

But not content with his initial effort, Max went another three-tenths faster to break the 1m30s barrier and claim his second pole of the season and first since Bahrain.

Perez had to settle for fourth in the second Red Bull but could well be a big factor in Sunday's race as tyre management is set to be crucial.

Behind the top two teams, Ferrari inserted themselves as 'best of the rest' with Carlos Sainz fifth and Charles Leclerc seventh.

Pierre Gasly continued his strong qualifying performances this season in sixth for AlphaTauri.

McLaren hasn't quite had the pace of the lead midfield teams, but still got both cars into the top 10 with Lando Norris eighth and Daniel Ricciardo 10th.

Former McLaren driver Fernando Alonso will start between the two Papaya machines in ninth for Alpine.

Back at the front, and Verstappen has certainly sent a big message to Mercedes, claiming pole on a circuit where Hamilton dominated Saturday on the first two visits.

Whether he can really upset the formbook and take his third win of 2021 on Sunday? We'll have to wait and see!

Full results from qualifying can be seen below: