Hamilton tops charts on first day of French GP practice

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

The McLaren driver was quickest in both the morning and afternoon sessions, ending up seven-tenths clear of in-demand Australian Daniel Ricciardo who was second for Red Bull.

Vettel arrives into this weekend as the championship leader, having regaining the advantage from Lewis Hamilton by winning the Canadian Grand Prix. I think we have all pulled together and done a great job in putting the auto where we need it, for both Valtteri and I.

Lewis Hamilton pipped teammate Valtteri Bottas to take pole position for the French Grand Prix as Mercedes locked out the front row at Paul Ricard.

"We found what made us so uncompetitive in Spain", he said.

"Overall, it was a good session and now we need to carry on this performance through the weekend". Hamilton followed and, after the first flying runs, he and Bottas topped the times before the session was red-flagged when Grosjean crashed at Turn Three.

This was clear evidence not only of Hamilton's pure pace, but also his innate ability to learn a new circuit very quickly. "It's really stunning down here".

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

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"There's a lot of different lines you can take and it's tricky to find reference points out on the track".

Confirmation that the upgrades will be available this weekend will be a big boost for Hamilton. "I got a great response from the crowd and I'm delighted to be here for the first time", said Hamilton, who described his final session as "so-so". "It looks like we are chasing them this weekend".

There will be another practice on Saturday before qualifying for Sunday's race.

"To be able to represent your country and be at the top of the sport, like we are hoping the England team will be, is an honour and a privilege - and I am grateful for that". "It's as simple as that - sometimes you have these days, but let's see".

Behind the two Ferraris, Frenchman Romain Grosjean was sixth for Haas ahead of Bottas, two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of McLaren, Dane Kevin Magnussen in the second Haas and Frenchman Pierre Gasly.

Sweden's Marcus Ericsson is likely to start from the pitlane after crashing in Friday's first practice with Sauber changing his car's fire-damaged chassis.

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