Lewis Hamilton cruises to his 75th career pole position at Paul Ricard, Leclerc stars in the Sauber
It was a session dominated by the Mercedes team as they easily locked out the front row of the grid. Championship leader Vettel starts 3rd. Charles Leclerc produced an astonishing performance to qualify 8th on the grid.
Heading into qualifying, it was confirmed that Brendon Hartley was forced to make an engine change after problems in FP2. Having gone over his permitted allocation, this meant the Kiwi received grid penalties and he'll start at the back of the grid for tomorrow's race.
The opening time of qualifying was posted by Lance Stroll in the Williams on a 1:34.725. Haas' Romain Grosjean soon destroyed that by clocking an excellent 1:32.466, half a second ahead of stablemate Magnussen and Leclerc.
Raikkonen went P1 after the first lap of all the big hitters – the Finn delivered a 1:31.567, 0.022s in front of Hamilton. Ultimately, Hamilton finished Q1 quickest after a 1:31.271. Verstappen, Raikkonen, Bottas, Vettel and Ricciardo rounded out the top 6. The Haas' showed strong pace to be P7 and P8.
Late laps from Ericsson, Ocon and Perez got them out of the knockout zone and all three made Q2. Both McLaren's, Hartley and the two Williams' were the five drivers who dropped out at the end of Q1.
16) Fernando Alonso 1:32.976
17) Brendon Hartley 1:33.025
18) Stoffel Vandoorne 1:33.162
19) Sergey Sirotkin 1:33.636
20) Lance Stroll 1:33.729
Into the second segment of qualifying and Max Verstappen logged the initial benchmark with a 1:32.307 as spots of rain fell.
The times tumbled and the two Mercedes' soon left the field trailing in their dust. Hamilton clocked a 1:30.645, followed by Bottas 0.582s behind as both men went on the supersofts.
The Ferrari's went for a second lap and popped into P2 and P3 – but on the ultrasoft compound vs the supersoft for Hamilton. Bottas, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Magnussen, Grosjean, Sainz and Gasly completed the top 10 following the first runs.
Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen remained the top 3 at the end of Q2. Verstappen, Bottas and Grosjean rounded out the top 6 at the end of Q2. Magnussen, Ricciardo, Sainz and the incredible Charles Leclerc were the other drivers to get into Q3.
It's the first time in his short career Leclerc has got into Q3 and the first time a Sauber has made the final segment of qualifying since Italy 2015.
Ocon, Hulkenberg, Perez, Gasly and Ericsson were the five drivers knocked out in Q2.
11) Esteban Ocon 1:32.075
12) Nico Hulkenberg 1:32.115
13) Sergio Perez 1:32.454
14) Pierre Gasly 1:32.460
15) Marcus Ericsson 1:32.820
The final part began with Lewis Hamilton going quickest on the opening runs, narrowly ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel. The trio was covered by only 0.178s.
A red flag was then brought out after Romain Grosjean lost the car over the kerb in T3 and crashed into the barriers on the outside of turn four. It also ruined the lap of his stablemate Kevin Magnussen.
On the final runs, Bottas briefly took pole away from Hamilton, but the Brit responded to snatch it back and take his third pole of 2018. Mercedes locked out the front row for the first time in 2018. Vettel, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Raikkonen completed the top 6.
Sainz, Leclerc, Magnussen and Grosjean rounded out the top 10.
1) Lewis Hamilton 1:30.029
2) Valtteri Bottas 1:30.147
3) Sebastian Vettel 1:30.400
4) Max Verstappen 1:30.705
5) Daniel Ricciardo 1:30.895
6) Kimi Raikkonen 1:31.057
7) Carlos Sainz 1:32.126
8) Charles Leclerc 1:32.635
9) Kevin Magnussen 1:32.930
10) Romain Grosjean No Time