Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel admitted that he simply pushed too hard in his final qualifying run on Saturday afternoon at Le Castellet.
Vettel had experienced a lacklustre day on Friday, finishing both practice sessions in fifth place. At past events he's been able to improve things overnight, but the loss of final practice to heavy rain meant that wasn't possible this week.
Even so, he was just a tenth off Lewis Hamilton's time in Q2 and believed that he still had a good chance to snatch pole position in the final top ten pole shoot-out round at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Vettel went third fastest with his first Q3 run, and when the light drizzle that had plagued the session eased off he saw his chance to go for the top spot.
"After the first attempt I saw that we are maybe there," he said afterwards. "I knew that maybe with really amazing lap I maybe had a chance. But it didn't come.
"I tried to push everything in the last attempt," he continued. "But looking back I pushed too hard.
"You try a little bit too much here and there, you lose the tyre, the car then it slides and you lose the line.
"You end up losing time rather than gaining," he admitted. "It's a difficult one to get the right balance."
Vettel ended up almost four tenths off Hamilton's final pole position time. But even so, he felt that he had proved that the Ferrari had the pace to be a challenger in race trim.
"For tomorrow I think we have a good chance," he insisted. "I'm happy because the car should be good in the race. It was a good session."
While Vettel had once again come alive in qualifying, his team mate Kimi Raikkonen once again found it difficult to sustain his form when it really mattered.
The Finn will be sixth on the grid tomorrow, and ended up over a second slower than Hamilton in the final round.
"I don't know," Raikkonen replied when asked what had happened in Q3. "Obviously I was pretty disappointed with the end result. I was feeling fine until the last qualifying.
"It was pretty straightforward until the last qualifying," he continued. "And then the first run was quite good until turn 11, where it was a bit damp from the rain. After that we never really got any laps."
Regardless of their qualifying fortunes, both drivers had been delighted to see the crowds turn out in force on Saturday to support the first French Grand Prix in a decade.
"I raced at the last French Grand Prix, but it's amazing to see so many people, the excitement," Vettel said.
"Obviously the weather today was a bit comme ci, comme ça, but it's amazing to see so much support, so many fans for Ferrari as well.
"I think for all of us it's nice to be here," he said, adding that it was so different from his previous visits to Paul Ricard where it's been used for test sessions.
"Normally this place is a bit grey, but now there's a lot of colour, there's a lot of people, so it really comes alive!"