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Hamilton tops charts on first day of French GP practice

Hamilton takes pole as Sainz claims 7th and Alonso suffers

Lewis Hamilton will risk losing his focus on tomorrow's French Grand Prix by watching England play a World Cup match shortly before the race.

Hamilton benefited from an engine upgrade that Mercedes failed to roll out in the last round when the British driver lost his lead to Vettel. I hope so because Lewis s time was pretty quick. Quite how the Dutch 20-year-old deals with a new track remains to be seen as Red Bull try to get the most out of their Renault engine before switching to Honda from next year. "In the end, P3, I'm happy, because the vehicle should be good in the race".

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

Hamilton edged Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas to take top spot for the 75th time in his career, but cut a subdued figure, admitting he was slightly frustrated at missing time.

Marcus Ericsson, who had a high-speed crash in his Sauber at the end of the morning session, was unable to run as his vehicle, which had burst into flames, was not repaired in time.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was fourth on the timesheets in both sessions, with Vettel also fifth in both.

Bottas, who ran Hamilton close will be second, while the top four is completed by the presence of Max Verstappen.

Hamilton's Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas, also with a new Mercedes engine in his vehicle, was second fastest in the initial stint but seventh in the second after his auto developed a water leak.

He had shared the record of 22 with retired seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher.

New Zealander Brendon Hartley spun his Toro Rosso to set the tone before Frenchman Esteban Ocon spun his Force India and both Saubers followed suit.

"After Saturdays, I'm always here answering negative questions", Alonso, whose future at McLaren remains uncertain, told Sky Sports. He finished the race in Canada fifth, and saw Vettel turn a 14-point deficit into a one-point lead with a victory.

The last time Le Castellet held an F1 race was in 1990, when French great Alain Prost won for Ferrari.