IF Lewis Hamilton is to end his drought on his 300th race – it is going to take some considerable effort or maybe a huge slice of luck.

The Brit is currently on the longest winless streak of his 16-year career in F1 that stands at 12 races.

His last victory was back in Saudi Arabia in December when he was battling for the title with Max Verstappen.

But he could not get close to the Dutchman's Red Bull here in France or the Ferrari of pole-sitter Charles Leclerc, as Mercedes' latest set of upgraded parts failed to propel Hamilton into a contender.

Hamilton, who starts today tomorrow in fourth, was almost a second off Leclerc's pole time.

He said: "My last lap was great. I finished it and thought that was an awesome lap but I was still nine tenths off the guys ahead.


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"I am not sure why that gap has got bigger over these two races. They [Leclerc and Verstappen] are in their own league in that respect performance wise.

"When we say we had updates to the car, we brought the tiniest thing, so it could be half a tenth, maybe a tenth if it worked perfectly. It's difficult to really see it.

"I came here thinking last race we were three or four tenths off and I thought maybe this weekend we would maybe two or three tenths off but we have been a second off all weekend.

"I was happy with my lap and with my performance but they are in their own place.

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"But we are still there so everyone behind me is struggling too so we just keep fighting."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who shoulders the responsibility for his team's poor start to the season as their car design has thrown up problem after problem.

Too slow, too much bouncing at high speed. In fact the only thing they have got right is the reliability.

Wolff's team is playing a gamble of trying to fettle their car in an attempt to unlock its potential.

He said: "We knew that once we got the new tyres on and we were driving the car in anger, that we would be there in a third and fourth, like we have been all season.

"But it's just not good enough. You can see that when you are on the back foot, your expectations are on a certain level for the race weekend and it doesn't come together, a kind of free-styling starts.

"It was mainly experimenting with rear wing levels and also tyre temperatures. But in the end the overall package is just not quick enough.

"Lewis did an immense job. He's probably extracted more than the car has at the moment."

Leclerc, who started his racing career less than an hour away from this circuit in the south of France, was cheered by the crowd as he took the 16th pole of his career and the seventh of the season.

He did it with a huge helping hand from his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz, who provided a textbook tow to punch a hole in the air and catapult Leclerc into an excellent finish to his second flying lap.

Sainz, who was already starting at the back of the grid due to engine penalties following his fire in Austria, was sacrificed for Leclerc's benefit as he played the perfect wingman.

Leclerc said: "It was a great lap. I've struggled all weekend to put a lap together and I managed to put it, but I have to say that I also had the help of Carlos, and that was amazing teamwork.

"Without Carlos it would have been much closer. I hope that he can join us back in the fight for the win tomorrow."

Meanwhile, Verstappen, who starts in second on the grid, added: "With the conditions it is very difficult to know what is happening.

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"It is very hot and that makes it very difficult to get the tyres into the right window and have balance.

"Maybe it is the track layout and the heat that doesn't suit my driving. It is going to be even warmer on Sunday, so keeping the tyres alive will be the key."

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