LE CASTELLAT, France – Lewis Hamilton made winning the French Grand Prix at Circuit Paul Ricard look like an effortless Sunday drive, because in effect, it was exactly that.
Hamilton started from the pole position, took the lead on the initial start and never gave it up again en route to his sixth Formula One victory in eight Grands Prix this season.
The five-time World Champion made his lone pit stop with 24 laps complete for a switch from the medium-compound Pirelli tires to the hard compound, and even that didn’t allow his rival Sebastian Vettel to get a momentary sniff of the lead.
Hamilton came out in front of Vettel and then pulled away from Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas over the second half of the 53-lap race, taking the checkered flag in front by 18.056 seconds.
The win was the 79th of Hamilton’s F-1 career, moving him just a dozen victories behind Michael Schumacher for the most all-time in the history of the sport.
“It just never gets old,” said Hamilton of winning races. “It’s always really tough out there and I love trying to find the edge. It’s all about bridging the gap and being on top of this machine. I couldn’t do it without an incredible team and all these guys at the race track and back at the factory. We’re creating history together and I’m so proud to be a part of that.”
Hamilton may have made his win look simple, but he attested that it was far from as easy as it looked.
“It’s a beautiful day in South France, but I was still sweating a huge amount out there,” noted Hamilton. “It’s warm still in the car, as well as very, very bumpy. This is an awesome track to drive in the race – there’s some technical areas that you can manage – but it wasn’t an easy day.
“There’s always things happening. Everything is on the edge. We had to manage a lot of things today.”
Though Bottas chased Hamilton all day, he could do nothing with his teammate even after starting on the front row. The Finn was left to settle for a distant second in the end.
“There wasn’t really that much happening from my side today,” said Bottas. “The start was really the best bet for me (to pass Hamilton), but Lewis had a really good start as well. Ultimately, he was quicker today. I couldn’t really match his pace. We’ll need to have a look at that before the next one, but I’m proud of the team and proud of our effort. He’s not unbeatable; I just have to work hard.”
Sunday’s performance was Mercedes’ 50th sweep of the top-two positions in F-1 competition, as well as their 10th consecutive race win dating back to last year.
Charles Leclerc completed the podium for Ferrari, followed by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen and the second Ferrari of Vettel, who came in with high hopes but had lackluster pace during the race.
However, Vettel did prevent Hamilton from completing a Grand Slam by stealing the fastest lap of the race at the checkered flag with a clip of 1:32.740, earning a valuable bonus point in the process.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz crossed sixth, the final car on the lead lap, with Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo ending up seventh ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen.
The sister Renault of Nico Hulkenberg and Lando Norris’ ailing McLaren closed the points-scoring finishers in the top 10.
Norris was running seventh inside of five to go but fell back with a hydraulic issue on the final lap.
Hamilton’s points lead now sits at 36 over Bottas heading into the Austrian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg, Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly, Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll, Daniil Kvyat, Alexander Albon, Antonio Giovinazzi, Kevin Magnussen, Robert Kubica, George Russell, Romain Grosjean.