Bottas sets pace in French GP 3rd free practice despite rain

Lewis lays down early marker in hunt for Vettel

With the initiative being passed between the big three teams on a race-by-race basis even five points, the difference between his result and the third place Vettel should have taken, could prove to be vital. However, a first-lap-first-corner error from Sebastian Vettel (yes, he made one again!) saw several cars out of place from their regular positions - a recipe that has usually livened up Formula 1 races.

"It feels great to be back in France".

"I'm not really going to get into that".

But after winning at Circuit Paul Ricard, 33-year-old Hamilton has acknowledged how vitally important it is that he starts as high up the grid as possible next weekend.

Vettel finished only fifth after colliding with Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas at the start.

But team boss Toto Wolff hinted after the French Grand Prix - a race which was attended by Mercedes chairman Dr Dieter Zetsche - that a conclusion may finally be on the horizon.

"We are also constantly learning how to set the auto up in the right way in combination with the tyres".

Red Bull's Max Verstappen qualified fourth with Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo fifth and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen sixth.

Uruguay beat Saudi Arabia 1-0, progress into last-16
He fell back to defend and raced forward alongside Edinson Cavani on the counterattack. We couldn't equalize, but we controlled the play.

"I don't know what Lewis did, but we've all been in that situation".

"I'm not really going to get into that", said the Briton, now 14 points clear at the top and with the races coming in quick succession.

"I guess today was just not my day", he added.

Behind the top three teams, Sainz took seventh for Renault, Leclerc did well to take eighth for Sauber, Magnussen's Haas starts in ninth and Grosjean get tenth after bending his auto. He was unhurt, but the session was red-flagged and halted temporarily. The answer lies in the fact that the top three teams are in a league of their own.

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

"Our performance has usually been so-so on Saturdays, with our average position in qualifying so far this year being 13th", said Alonso. "So, it bites them both", he said.

McLaren still fared better than former champions Williams, who had Russian Sergey Sirotkin 19th and Canadian Lance Stroll 20th. Its new specification was initially delayed due to concerns over reliability and in France, reliability issues surfaced with Valtteri Bottas suffering a water leak in Friday practice and Force India's Sergio Perez retired from the race due to an engine-related issue.

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