For the second year in a row Max will start the French Grand Prix from fourth place on the grid, while Pierre will start his home race from ninth place.
The opening segment of qualifying was topped with ease by the Mercedes pairing of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, with the Finn setting a session-best time of 1:30.550 to edge his teammate by 0.059s.
Max undertook a single run in Q1, though he made two attempts on the same set of soft tyres. The Dutchman’s first flying lap netted a time of 1:32.636. That handed him P11 and he therefore required a second hot lap to be sure of progress. On his next attempt he set a time of 1:31.327. That was initially good enough for P4 and he retreated to the garage. However, as the lower half of the order completed their final runs Max slid to P14 but still progressed to Q2 in some comfort.
Pierre, meanwhile, completed a single hot lap on his first run and after slipping down the order following his opening flying lap the Frenchman went for a second attempt late in the session to set a time of 1:31.152, which ensured progress in P11.
When the chequered flag came out the Mercedes duo held the top spots ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, while Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo jumped to P4 and P5 respectively after good final laps.
At the bottom of the order, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat was eliminated in P16 ahead of the Haas of Romain Grosjean, Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and the Williams duo of George Russell and Robert Kubica.
With the soft compound Pirelli tyres seeming to suffer badly in the high temperatures at Paul Ricard, the front-running teams wisely went into Q2 targeting a best lap on medium tyres and a race start on the yellow-banded compound.
In the end, the top eight in the second session made it through to Q3 on the medium tyres, with Max among them. Bottas once again topped the timesheet with a lap of 1:29.437, this time edging Vettel by five hundredths of a second. Hamilton was third ahead of Leclerc and Norris, while Max slotted into P6 with a time of 1:30.099.
As the chequered flag came out Pierre was languishing in P13, but a good final lap of 1:30.421, on soft tyres, boosted him to P10 and through to the Q3 shootout. He ended the segment behind seventh-placed Carlos Sainz, the Renault of Ricciardo and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.
Pierre’s progression to Q3 was at the expense of Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon, with the Thai driver finding himself edged to P11 by four hundredths of a second. Albon was followed to the exit by Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen, Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg, Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez, and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
Given Bottas’ hold on P1, which extended all the way back to FP2, he might have been expected to take his fourth pole position of the year. Hamilton though, had not read the script, and in Q3 the championship leader moved ahead early on to claim provisional pole, just over a tenth of a second clear of the Finn.
And the Briton improved on his final run to set a time of 1:28.319, almost three tenths clear of Bottas and more than six tenths ahead of third-placed Charles Leclerc.
The Ferrari driver was pushed by Max, who improved on his opening time of 1:29.695 to claim fourth place on the grid with a final-run time of 1:29.409.
Pierre also improved on his opening time, but with the best of the RB15 and the track eluding him, the local hero was only able to take ninth place with a best lap of 1:30.184. That leaves him at the front of row five ahead of Alfa’s Giovinazzi.
It was a good day for McLaren, with Lando Norris fifth ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz, but it was a disappointing final session for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel as the German slumped to P7, 1.4s off the pole pace and more than eight tenths of a second behind teammate Leclerc.
French Grand Prix - Qualifying Top 10:
1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Valtteri Bottas
3. Charles Leclerc
4. MAX VERSTAPPEN
5. Lando Norris
6. Carlos Sainz
7. Sebastian Vettel
8. Daniel Ricciardo
9. PIERRE GASLY
10. Antonio Giovinazzi