Lewis Hamilton claims his 65th career victory at the return of the French Grand Prix – his third of the 2018 season and 44th with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. The first French Grand Prix in a decade got off to a spectacular start when Sebastian Vettel collided with Valtteri Bottas in Turn 1. The championship-leading Ferrari driver got a good start and closed up on the back of pole sitter Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.
There was no way past, however, so Vettel sought a wider line as he entered the first corner. Bottas was powering past on the outside, however, as they turned Vettel’s Ferrari connected with the rear left wheel of Bottas’ Mercedes.
After an accident in the opening lap, Valtteri fought his way through the field to finish today’s race in P7 and set the fastest lap of the race.
Race leader Hamilton waited until lap 33 before he made the move from supersofts to soft tyres and his stop meant the lead briefly went to Raikkonen. But the Finn made his own trip to the pit lane a lap later and Hamilton moved back to first place ahead of Max and Daniel, who had powered past Vettel when the German made a mistake and ran wide at the Le Beausset corner.
And that was how it stayed, with Hamilton crossing the line after 53 laps to take his 65th career grand prix victory ahead of Verstappen and Raikkonen. Ricciardo was fourth, with Vettel fifth ahead of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, Bottas, Sainz, Renault’s Hulkenberg and Sauber’s Charles Leclerc.
When you’re constructive and criticise yourself, approach a challenge with new methods and a new-found determination, it’s a great feeling to then get the result. But it’s also disappointing for the team as we had the opportunity to take a 1-2, which is always incredible as you achieve your ultimate goal as a team. I was very comfortable with the balance this afternoon. Max had decent pace, but I could maintain the gap at around five seconds. The fresh engine put us back in line with everyone else who took a new PU in Canada and everybody in the team should be feeling happy today for the good work they have done. But there’s a long way to go and we’ll keep approaching the rest of the season like we approached today.
“Finishing second here in Paul Ricard is better than we expected coming into the weekend. As soon as we got to turn two I was relieved not to have had contact and it was a pretty clear layout, so from there it was just about managing my own race, which was fairly straightforward. I could see Lewis managing the pace but we were still not far off without pushing the car too much. I think we got the strategy spot on. The soft tyres felt a little bit more robust and allowed me to find some good pace to make the final laps more comfortable. After two clean races and two good results in a row it’s important to carry this momentum forward.
“At the start we lost two places; I was on the outside and then the accident at the first corner happened, and it was a quite messy situation. I tried to stay out of trouble but chose the wrong side of the track. After that I was able lo recover. I had a good feeling with the car, especially after we had our pit stop and put the Supersoft tires on. We had a good speed through the whole race. We decided to do a very long stint with the first set and it lasted very well; only towards the end it got a bit tricky. Then, with the new tires, the car was very good and I could race and actually pass other drivers; it was a lot more fun than the last two races!”
Last few laps: Raikkonen was very quick and had Ricciardo in his sights, but there were backmarkers to be dealt with. The first scrap came at the start of lap 47 and then Kimi made the decisive move at the chicane and was in a podium position. Right at the end the Virtual Safety Car was used after Stroll went off. Scuderia Ferrari picked up 25 points, which one minute into the race had seemed an impossibility. It was down to the determination of the drivers and the cool headed approach of the guys on the pit wall.
The result means that Hamilton now heads the drivers’ standings with 145 points, 14 clear of Vettel. Daniel moves back to third place with 96 points, four clear of Bottas, while Max is sixth with 68 points, 15 behind Raikkonen