Lewis Hamilton wins French Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel hopes hit by penalty

Lewis Hamilton Sebastian Vettel

Lewis Hamilton secured pole position for the French Grand Prix ahead of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes dominated Saturday's crash-hit qualifying session to sweep the front row of the grid.

He later added: "I feel very grateful, grateful for a solid weekend".

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel leads Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton by a single point after seven races.

Race stewards said his auto had been fitted with a fourth engine and turbo charger, exceeding the 21-race season's allocation of three.

This allowed Max Verstappen to take third behind his Red Bull team mate ahead of the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and championship leader Sebastian Vettel.

Unchallenged, Hamilton waited until he reached traffic to make the change of tyres, dropping the lead to Raikkonen for a lap or two before the Finn, who also started on the Ultrasofts compared to those around him on Supersofts, made his stop. And then I had no grip, lost the vehicle, couldn't open and disappear, because there were people and obviously Valtteri was the one that I hit.

The reigning champion saw his chances of succeeding at Circuit Paul Ricard boosted by a first-turn collision between Vettel and Valtteri Bottas for which the former received a five-second time penalty.

Niki Lauda, the Mercedes non-executive chairman, believed Vettel's penalty was too lenient.

Fernando Alonso, victor of the 24 Hour Le Mans last week, failed to get out of the first qualifying section, which culls the slowest five drivers, along with McLaren partner Stoffel Vandoorne and both Williams cars.

"You try a little bit too much here and there, you lose the tyre, the auto then it slides and you lose the line".

"We were going side-by-side I went for the outside, left enough room for him, but he went wide and hit me", said Bottas, who finished seventh.

Other collisions on a chaotic first lap at Le Castellet saw two of the three French drivers retire, with Force India's Esteban Ocon and Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly the unlucky casualties.

After all the commotion, polesitter Hamilton was leading with Verstappen second, Ricciardo fourth, Vettel 11th and Bottas 13th. Ricciardo was not as lucky with his stop in the 29th lap as Vettel raced by him into fourth.

Vettel needed a new front wing for his Ferrari and had to work his way from the back of the pack to settle for a fifth-place finish behind Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo.

Both continued but required a lap one pitstop.

Both had gained an extra position in the last three laps, as Renault's Carlos Sainz Jr slipped from sixth to eighth reporting "no power".

Sunday's race will be the first French Grand Prix since Magny-Cours in 2008 and the first held at the southern Le Castellet circuit since 1990.

McLaren still fared better than former champions Williams, who had Russian Sergey Sirotkin 19th and Canadian Lance Stroll 20th.

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