QUALIFYING: Hamilton claims majestic 75th pole in France

QUALIFYING: Hamilton claims majestic 75th pole in France

"The new engine feels clean and fresh", said Hamilton.

Lance Stroll triggered a virtual safety vehicle in the closing laps of the race after his front-left tyre gave up at the high-speed Signes right-hander.

A wheel then came off Sergio Perez's Force India auto at speed on the Mistral straight in the late afternoon.

The wheel detached from his vehicle and bounced clear down the straight as Perez came to a halt.

The 90-minute opening session was red-flagged with a minute remaining when Ericsson lost control at the Beausset corner, spun and hit the barriers hard, with the Sauber vehicle then catching fire.

Hamilton, armed with his new Mercedes engine, has been in emphatic form in France, and after topping both practice sessions on Friday, sticking his Mercedes on pole, and then nailing the start, his win never appeared in doubt.

Ferrari's championship leader Sebastian Vettel, a point ahead of the Briton after seven of 21 races, qualified in third place. The Finn has shown this season that he has pace and, at times, is the better of the Mercedes drivers, while Red Bull are benefiting from Renault's added oomph.

"This is one of the most lovely places in the world and we have so many fans coming out here, so I'm hoping the weather is good tomorrow". "It s really stunning down here".

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In the near term, Harley-Davidson will instead absorb most of the cost of moving the production of motorcycles overseas . Harley-Davidson had announced that it would be closing a plant in Kansas City, and laying off around 800 workers there.

Pirelli's ultrasoft, supersoft and soft compounds will be in play, which could influence the race, as Paul Ricard's deeper run-off areas are known for being extremely abrasive, so drivers may pay the price for mistakes with extreme tyre wear. Apart from the colourful lines, it s hard to tell where you are.

"There are a couple of places down the back straight and you are coming down the long straight trying to find out where the corner is". Speaking after a pleasing day for the reigning champions, Hamilton revealed that he could have gone even quicker.

"They have an upgrade?"

Hamilton added: "To have this result is a great day for the United Kingdom, and I hope that I have contributed in a positive way".

Vettel was sanguine about his performance and potential in qualifying on Saturday.

"I'm really happy with the pole, but I always strive for perfection and there was some time left on the track", he said. Sometimes you can go off. "It s a tricky track".

Q3 was a two part affair after Romain Grosjean wrecked his Haas part way through, but part two was a shootout between Hamiulton and Bottas, and it was the Brit's victory, leaving Bottas in second for a Mercedes front row and Vettel in the Ferrari relegated to third.

There was also drama on track, with Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson crashing his Sauber in the first session and clambering out with the vehicle on fire.

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