Hamilton says gusty Q3 conditions helped secure pole


Lewis Hamilton confirmed that windy conditions during the final round of qualifying helped him take pole position for the 2019 French Grand Prix ahead of his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas.

Bottas had been the fastest of the pair in FP2 and FP3, and continued his run at the top of the timesheets for the first two rounds of qualifying at Circuit Paul Ricard on Saturday afternoon.

But when the wind picked up for the final top ten pole shoot-out, it gave the advantage to Hamilton who ended up on pole with a best Q3 time of 1:28.319s which was almost three tenths ahead of Bottas.

"Valtteri has been quick all weekend, so [I was] just chipping away, chipping away," Hamilton said after the end of qualifying.

"It's not an easy track. Obviously there's a lot of run off areas, and it's quite technical," he continued. "The wind has been picking up and it was quite gusty around the track.

"So you have to be quite dynamic with how you attack the lap. There's certain points you at which can attack, and others where you kind of have to give way a little bit due to the wind.

"My last two laps were the ones - the last one I was up nearly half a second and I lost it in the second to last corner," he added. "I took a little too much into that last corner and the gusts just took the back end.

"Nonetheless I was still up [at the end of the lap], which is a good thing," he said. "I'm happy I got the potential out of the car, the team did a fantastic job.

Bottas confirmed that he had also been struggling with the change in the conditions in the final round.

"Lewis had a really good lap at the end. It's been super close between us all weekend - all about fine metres and hundredths of a second.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 (Right) receives the Pirelli pole position award from Jean Alesi (FRA).

"The wind kind of changed to completely the opposite direction, and there were a couple of corners where my line didn't work then so I had to work them out.

"But I think actually Lewis got it better right today, but as a team it's good," he added. "It's been a really strong package we have here this weekend, so obviously enjoyable and hopefully it will the same tomorrow."

With the two Mercedes starting the race alongside each other on the front row of the grid, Bottas still has a chance to taking the lead away from Hamilton when the lights go out.

"[It's a] nice long run in to turn 1 so hopefully I can do something there," he commented. "I think the race start is going one of the key things tomorrow for me, so I'll focus on that."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was satisfied with qualifying, but remained keenly aware that the real challenge for the team was still 24 hours away.

"A good qualifying session," he told Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz. "I think we have lots of downforce and you can see that on a track like this.

"The challenge is tomorrow, to bring the tyres to the end and finish the race on a good note," he added, highlighting concerns about how the Pirelli compounds would fare tomorrow in hot weather.

"You need to have one stop because this pit lane is more than 23 seconds in loss," he explained. "So it's about a good start and having reliability and bringing a race home that should suit out car.

"But we know that racing happens on Sunday, so let's finish it first."

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