FRENCH GP – Hamilton takes a dominant victory as drama unfolds behind giving him championship lead

Testing & Race Reports

Lewis Hamilton has put in a dominant performance to retake the lead of the championship after victory at the French Grand Prix. Hamilton had never won in France but drove off as the drama unfolded behind him, as his teammate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

The Englishman pulled away at the front after Bottas and Vettel, touched into the first corner. Vettel was trying to overtake the Finn, but locked up and went into the back of the Mercedes sending him into a spin. That meant he had to stop early and the stewards awarded him a five second time penalty.

The two dropped to the back but managed to work their way back into the points, with great overtaking on track. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who started fourth was forced to take avoiding action, which allowed Hamilton to pull away at the front.

Vettel had fought his way back through the field before being awarded a penalty. But it looked easy, Hamilton had targeted the win to add to England’s win 6-1 to Panama at the world cup in Nizhny Novgorod

It wasn’t only Bottas and Vettel colliding in Turn One, as Pierre Gasly lost the rear of his Toro Rosso and slid into the back of Esteban Ocon’s Force India, putting both drivers out of their home grand prix on lap one.

Hamilton said “The start was the closest [to needing to look in his mirrors] and then after that, fortunately, was very comfortable with the balance. Max had really good pace, but fortunately, I was able to eek out a little bit more when needed and maintain the gap when needed.”

Bottas told Sky Sports “We were going side-by-side I went for the outside, left enough room for him, but he went wide and hit me. I got a puncture and damage to the floor, which compromised the race.”

Verstappen ran wide at the first corner, taking avoiding action to dodge the Vettel-Bottas crash, but was unable to find sufficient pace to threaten the faultless Hamilton. Verstappen finished second and Kimi Raikkonen took back to back podiums in France with third.

He said “It was good. I tried to follow Lewis. He was controlling the pace. I didn’t have to work very hard for it but it’s good to be in the podium. At the start, everybody was trying to go to get a position and everybody can make mistakes.”

Raikkonen took third from Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, as he fought through the field using a faster strategy. Ricciardo was strong position in the closing stages, however, he was struggling with downforce as he lost a piece of his front wing.

After the race, it also emerged that Ricciardo had et up his car in anticipation of rain which never fell, was further handicapped by car damage from debris, leaving the Australian defenceless to Raikkonen’s surge.

Haas’s Kevin Magnussen was sixth ahead of Bottas, who struggled to make progress through the field after the Vettel incident because of damage to his floor which affected his downforce and handling balance.

It was also a good race for Renaults Carlos Sainz, he was on course to finish sixth but was forced to drop to eighth after engine problems but remained ahead of teammate Nico Hulkenberg.

Charles Leclerc continued his strong run of results with tenth place. The Sauber driver had run as high as sixth earlier in the race but dropped back as his car was unable to challenge in the midfield.

Leclerc’s recent performances have made some speculate that the current F2 champion could be in line to replace Raikkonen at Ferrari next season. It was the best result for ‘France’ as it was a disastrous afternoon for all three Frenchman.

Romain Grosjean triggered the incident which would see all two retire. The first lap collision taking his fellow countrymen Pierre Gasly and Ocon into retirement, Grosjean, still without a point this year, finished eleventh.

Hopes of turning around the poor qualifying were over before the race had begun for McLaren. Fernando Alonso losing time during the incident at turn one, he then did a first-lap pit stop and an attempt to go through the race non-stop.

That wouldn’t pay off as he stopped later in the race before a suspension failure on the last lap forced him to retire. Sergio Perez was the only other retiree, having challenged for the points before a suspected engine problem



Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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