Lewis Hamilton - It's great to be back

Boullier Mc Laren must focus on reliability			Image by Steven Tee  LAT

Bottas had been on provisional pole position with his final lap before Hamilton improved, giving the team its first front-row lockout since the Spanish Grand Prix.

The reigning F1 world champion lost his points lead to Montreal victor Sebastian Vettel when he could only finish a quiet fifth a fortnight ago.

Hamilton called his run "impeccable". "I think the team have done a great job throughout the weekend", said Hamilton. "You can see how close it is between us all. It's really, really great to have this result".

Mercedes performed a late U-turn on a decision to unleash their revised power unit in Montreal which contributed to Hamilton finishing only fifth and losing his championship lead to Vettel.

The New Zealander crashed out on the opening lap of the previous race in Canada and has scored only one point so far this season.

The British driver has put himself into position to boost his title defence if he can continue the dominant driving he has shown in the past two days at the track just inland from the Cote d'Azur. They are like, 'Oh, you can't say that.' But [it's a case of] 'No, I thought we said we're in that comfort zone, you can say what you want.' Naturally, everyone is shedding their blood, sweat and tears to make sure we win this season.

"It's going to be a little harder to focus on the race because we will be watching it", he told reporters on Thursday.

Hamilton beat Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas to pole by just over a tenth of a second, but was comfortable in qualifying throughout as he topped all three segments.

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"I was confident I could improve for the final attempt", Vettel said about his last flying lap that came up short. "Overall, it was a good session today - now we need to carry on this performance through the weekend". "We have a good auto".

Sunday's race will be the first French Grand Prix in a decade and the first at Le Castellet's Paul Ricard circuit since 1990.

Red Bull took fourth and fifth, Max Verstappen in front of Daniel Ricciardo, while Kimi Raikkonen was a subdued sixth after another lacklustre Q3 display.

Carlos Sainz Jr. spearheaded the midfield battle for Renault as he took seventh, as Charles Leclerc again starred for Sauber, making it through to Q3, where he placed eighth. With so many spectators stuck outside the venue, the large grandstands erected around the circuit remained sparsely populated throughout both practice sessions. Unfortunately, that meant that I didn't really get a lot of long runs in.

With the England football team hot favourites to secure progression to the Round of 16 at the World Cup against Panama, the country's only current F1 driver is also odds-on to win his own worldwide content in Sunday's grand prix.

There was gloom at McLaren, with last weekend's Le Mans 24 Hours victor and double world champion Fernando Alonso managing only the 16th best time.

Alonso and Vandoorne sandwiched Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley, though he will drop to the back of the grid on account of incurring the maximum 15-place grid penalty due to taking on a new power unit.

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