The Red Bull driver had already set a lap good enough for provisional pole position and went even better on his final flying lap of Q3 with a 1m29.990s as the only man to dip under the 1m30s bracket.

Despite appearing to struggle for pace throughout all three practice sessions, Hamilton saved his best lap until the very end to secure a spot on the front row of the grid alongside his main championship rival.

Hamilton ultimately ended up 0.258s adrift of Verstappen, who claimed his second pole of the season and the fifth of his career.

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas pipped Red Bull’s Sergio Perez to third by a tenth.

Carlos Sainz took a brilliant fifth for Ferrari, ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Scuderia teammate Charles Leclerc.

McLaren’s Lando Norris set the eighth-fastest time to pip Fernando Alonso’s Alpine, while Daniel Ricciardo completed the top-10 in the other McLaren.

On a weekend he is celebrating a new three-year contract extension at Alpine, Estaban Ocon was two-tenths shy of making it into Q2, with the Frenchman set to start his home race from 11th.

Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel was 12th-fastest, ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo and George Russell, who continued his 100% steak of Q2 outings in 2021 by setting the 15th-quickest time in his Williams.

A great lap by Mick Schumacher enabled the German to record his and Haas’ first Q2 appearance of 2021, but he took no part in the session after crashing at Turn 6 on his final flying lap of Q1.

Schumacher’s incident caused a red flag that prevented Nicholas Latifi from joining his Williams teammate in Q2, while Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen was also knocked out.

Nikita Mazepin was 18th, ahead of Lance Stroll, who was the biggest loser of Q1 after the Aston Martin driver initially aborted a flying lap before his final effort was hampered by the late red flag, leaving him anchored to the back row of the grid.

For the second time this season, AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda will start from the very back of the field after crashing in Q1.

The Japanese racer got onto the kerbs at Turn 1 and lost control as his car swapped ends, sending him spinning backwards into the barriers and bringing out the first red flag of the session.

While the damage sustained to the rear of his AlphaTauri appeared to be only minor, Tsunoda was unable to re-engage his gears and recover to the track, meaning he was eliminated from qualifying and will line up in 20th.

Click here for full qualifying results for the 2021 F1 French Grand Prix.