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Story of qualifying: Where do Ferrari go from here?

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Hamilton critical of new surface at French Grand Prix (0:35)

Lewis Hamilton said 'we are all struggling with the grip out there' as he ran off the Circuit Paul Ricard in FP2. (0:35)

ESPN looks at the main talking points following Mercedes' dominance of qualifying for the French Grand Prix.

Ferrari nowhere as Mercedes underlines dominance: The fastest Ferrari was over 0.6 seconds off the fastest Mercedes in qualifying. That gap is pretty big regardless of the circumstances, but considering Lewis Hamilton wasn't happy with his lap and Leclerc said he got everything from his car, it underlines the extent of the real gap between the top two teams at the moment.

Ferrari spent the week ahead of the race playing down its chances at Paul Ricard -- a track that inherently plays to the strengths of the Mercedes -- but even with that in mind, the gap was worryingly big. What's more, Ferrari brought the first step in its new development direction this weekend and at the very least would have expected to narrow the gap to Mercedes.

Although team boss Mattia Binotto said the upgrades were generally positive and those items removed were only test items not intended to be raced this early in the year, both drivers let slip that some of the new parts had not given the expected boost in performance. With qualifying for Round 8 of the season done and dusted and Mercedes looking as dominant as ever, it's almost impossible to see how Ferrari can turn its season around.

From bad to worse for Vettel: Sebastian Vettel's French Grand Prix weekend got off to a bad start when Ferrari's attempt to overturn his Canadian Grand Prix penalty was rejected. Though that was no real surprise to anybody outside Ferrari's senior management, his seventh-place finish in qualifying was a genuine shock.

A problem with an upshift made him abort his first Q3 attempt, and then a general lack of grip left him 0.8s off his teammate Charles Leclerc on his second. The lap was also a couple of tenths slower than Vettel's Q2 time on medium tyres -- proof, if it was needed, of how lost he and Ferrari are this weekend.

"Some laps felt great, others didn't," he said. "In the end, I didn't get the best out of the car, which is not satisfying, but as I said, it was difficult for me because some laps it was really good, and some laps I don't know why but I didn't have the grip that I did on the runs before. It's a shame that it happened in Q3; it would have been better to be slower in the other segments, but that is what it is today."

Hamilton continues to edge away from Bottas: Lewis Hamilton has really found his groove in the past few races. The championship leader looked a little bit out of sorts during practice on Friday, but when it mattered, teammate Valtteri Bottas couldn't get close.

We've seen this before from Hamilton: He starts the season slowly and then hits his stride in the European leg. Considering Bottas is his only real competition for the title, the chances of the title battle going the distance look increasingly slim.

Hamilton was having none of that talk after qualifying.

When asked if he felt untouchable at the moment, given his recent form, he said: "Definitely don't feel untouchable, I never have felt that way.

"I do feel strong, but each time I feel I am starting on the right foot, Valtteri puts in really good laps every time, so I am constantly being pushed by Valtteri, and obviously the last races, it has been a lot closer, and some races we as a team are not being pushed as hard as we would like to be by the others. Nonetheless the battle within us, it feels in a lot of races it has been down to a tenth or a tenth-and-a-half between Valtteri and I, so I still have my work cut out and still have to perform and deliver.

"The work ethic is exactly the same, and the stress is exactly the same as if we were fighting the Ferraris. There was pressure on us coming into this season, but now I am getting more comfortable with the car, and as we get into the season, I don't expect that to stop."

Ghastly Gasly: Pierre Gasly is having a horrific season. His debut campaign with Red Bull has been full of low moments, and the Saturday ahead of his home race has to be one of the lowest. The Frenchman only just scraped through to Q2 thanks to a lap on the soft tyre, leaving him on the less desirable strategy for Sunday before he struggled further in Q3.

Gasly is clearly under pressure, in the unenviable position of being Max Verstappen's teammate, and Red Bull management is known to lack patience with out-of-form drivers. The only thing going for Gasly at the moment is the fact Red Bull's driver programme looks to be as weak as it has in a long while. Meanwhile in Toro Rosso, Daniil Kvyat is impressing, but his checkered history with the team surely is a blot on his chances of a promotion this season, while rookie Alexander Albon is still polishing rough edges.

Either way, Gasly is a man under growing pressure, and results like Saturday's won't do anything to silence those suggesting he'll be the next name on the list of drivers discarded by Helmut Marko.

McLaren on form: Last year's French Grand Prix was embarrassing for McLaren, so it was fitting that its drivers delivered a brilliant qualifying result this weekend to highlight how much progress has been made since. The orange cars have looked strong all weekend -- surprising many of McLaren's midfield rivals -- and that form was proven to be no anomaly in qualifying, where Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz locked out the third row of the grid.

Norris did well to out-qualify his more experienced teammate and looks every bit the wunderkind he was dubbed throughout his junior career. Ferrari's Vettel and Red Bull's Gasly line up behind the orange cars but should make light work of McLaren -- their main fight looks set to be with Daniel Ricciardo, who lines up in eighth position in what is shaping up to be a fascinating midfield battle between Renault and the team to which it supplies engines.