French GP: Hamilton takes emphatic win, Bottas resists Leclerc

Scott Mitchell
Hamilton takes commanding French GP victory

Formula 1 championship leader Lewis Hamilton absolutely dominated the French Grand Prix, leading every lap from pole position to extend his lead in the championship to 36 points.

Hamilton comfortably defeated team-mate Valtteri Bottas at Paul Ricard as Charles Leclerc completed the podium for Ferrari, whose lead driver Sebastian Vettel is now 76 points behind Hamilton after finishing fifth.

Vettel failed to make much progress from seventh on the grid, although a bonus point for fastest lap after making a late pitstop for fresh tyres provided a thin silver lining.

Hamilton held the lead at the start and only edged clear by a small margin over the first half of the opening stint.

However, the longer the drivers eked out their medium tyres, the bigger Hamilton's advantage became.

He was more than eight seconds clear when Bottas blinked first and pitted for hard tyres on lap 23.

Hamilton stayed out an extra lap, Mercedes having extended its drivers' stints to make sure they were far enough ahead of Vettel to rejoin ahead, as the Ferrari stayed out even longer.

After the pitstops, Hamilton stretched his advantage further and, after a brief back and forth battle with Bottas for fastest lap, the gap extended to 18s by the flag.

A muted Bottas at least returned to the runner-up position for the first time in three races, although the damage done by Hamilton's fourth straight victory could be significant for the Finn's title hopes.

Hamilton takes commanding French GP victory

Behind the two Mercedes, Leclerc hung onto Bottas's tail gamely in the first of the Ferraris. Leclerc hounded Bottas to the flag, even if he was always a few seconds adrift until the final laps, as he scored his second podium finish in a row.

The 21-year-old had to overcome a fierce first-lap challenge from Max Verstappen, after the two ran side-by-side down to Turn 3 for the first time.

Leclerc was boxed in by Bottas into Turn 2, which gave Verstappen momentum around the outside before Leclerc edged clear as they approached the next corner.

After that point, Verstappen gradually slipped back from Leclerc and his attentions turned to keep Vettel at bay.

Vettel closed to just three seconds behind in the first stint but after pitting several laps later than the Red Bull he rejoined 5.9s adrift and fell further and further away.

That gave Verstappen, who struggled with some lag on the throttle early on, breathing space and meant Vettel had too much time to make up when he started to close in again in the final few laps.

Ferrari therefore pitted Vettel with two laps remaining, bolted on a fresh set of soft tyres and released him to chase the fastest lap.

Vettel pumped in a 1m32.740s on the final lap to steal the bonus point from Hamilton by just 0.024s - after Hamilton had set a new fastest lap on the final lap as well.

Behind the Ferrari, McLaren won the best-of-the-rest battle with Carlos Sainz Jr in sixth.

Sainz jumped team-mate Lando Norris on the opening lap when Norris found himself with nowhere to go at Turn 1 and had to back out, handing Sainz momentum and the position.

Norris did well to even finish after battling a hydraulics problem that got worse as the race progressed and presented braking and steering problems for the rookie.

He ran seventh until the very last lap, when his problems became too much to overcome and he slipped behind Daniel Ricciardo's Renault, the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg in the other Renault.

Ricciardo attacked the ailing Norris on the outside at the chicane but ran deep, so Norris squirted the throttle and tried to repass him through the second part of the corner but went too wide after Ricciardo squeezed him, and took to the run-off.

That triggered multiple cars running side-by-side as Raikkonen and Hulkenberg got in on the battle, with Ricciardo claiming seventh ahead of Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and the defeated Norris.

French GP result

Pos Driver Car Laps Gap
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 53 1h24m31.198s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53 18.056s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 53 18.985s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 53 34.905s
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 53 1m02.796s
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren/Renault 53 1m35.462s
7 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 52 1 Lap
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 52 1 Lap
9 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 52 1 Lap
10 Pierre Gasly Red Bull/Honda 52 1 Lap
11 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 52 1 Lap
12 Sergio Perez Racing Point/Mercedes 52 1 Lap
13 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 52 1 Lap
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Honda 52 1 Lap
15 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso/Honda 52 1 Lap
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 52 1 Lap
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 52 1 Lap
18 Robert Kubica Williams/Mercedes 51 2 Laps
19 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 51 2 Laps
- Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 44 Withdrew

Drivers' standings

Pos Driver Points
1 Lewis Hamilton 187
2 Valtteri Bottas 151
3 Sebastian Vettel 111
4 Max Verstappen 100
5 Charles Leclerc 87
6 Pierre Gasly 37
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. 26
8 Kimi Raikkonen 19
9 Daniel Ricciardo 16
10 Nico Hulkenberg 16
11 Kevin Magnussen 14
12 Lando Norris 14
13 Sergio Perez 13
14 Daniil Kvyat 10
15 Alexander Albon 7
16 Lance Stroll 6
17 Romain Grosjean 2
18 Antonio Giovinazzi 0
19 George Russell 0
20 Robert Kubica 0

Constructors' standings

Pos Constructor Points
1 Mercedes 338
2 Ferrari 198
3 Red Bull/Honda 137
4 McLaren/Renault 40
5 Renault 32
6 Racing Point/Mercedes 19
7 Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 19
8 Toro Rosso/Honda 17
9 Haas/Ferrari 16
10 Williams/Mercedes 0

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