Hamilton and Mercedes masterclass in France

Defending Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton produced a masterclass performance at Circuit Paul Ricard, leading every lap and extending his championship advantage by 36 points.

Hamilton comfortably defeated his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas with Charles Leclerc completed the French Grand Prix podium for Ferrari, whose lead driver Sebastian Vettel is now 76 points behind Hamilton after finishing fifth position.

Vettel failed to make much progress from starting seventh on the grid, although a bonus point for fastest lap after making a late pitstop for fresh set of Pirelli provided one sign of hope.

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 pitted first for the hard tyres on lap 23.

Hamilton stayed out an extra lap, Mercedes having extended their 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 18 seconds by the chequered flag.

At least Bottas returned to the runner-up position for the first time in three races, although the damage is done by Hamilton’s fourth consecutive victory.

Behind the Silver Arrows, Leclerc hung onto Bottas’s tail in the first of the Ferraris.

Leclerc hounded Bottas to the flag, though always a few seconds adrift, as he scored his second podium finish in a row.

The Ferrari driver 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 5.9 seconds adrift and drop away.

That gave Verstappen, who struggled with some lag on the throttle early on, some 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 to the finish, getting a fresh set of soft tyres and released him to chase the fastest lap.

Vettel pumped in a one minute, 32.740 seconds on the final lap to steal the bonus point from Hamilton by just 0.024 seconds – 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 in sixth position.

Sainz jumped teammate 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.

Lando 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.

Ricciardo attacked the ailing Norris on the outside at the chicane but ran deep, so Norris squirted the throttle and tried to re-pass 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.

This was a late race drama in an otherwise dull French Grand Prix. The lack of action was a real issue but the performance by Mercedes must be applauded with this brilliant race result. Congratulations Lewis Hamilton in winning at Circuit Paul Ricard.

French Grand Prix, race results:
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 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 52 1 Lap
8 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 52 1 Lap
9 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 52 1 Lap
10 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 52 1 Lap
11 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 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 Retirement

Drivers’ championship:
1 Lewis Hamilton 187
2 Valtteri Bottas 151
3 Sebastian Vettel 111
4 Max Verstappen 100
5 Charles Leclerc 87
6 Pierre Gasly 36
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. 26
8 Daniel Ricciardo 22
9 Kimi Raikkonen 17
10 Kevin Magnussen 14
11 Nico Hulkenberg 14
12 Lando Norris 13
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’ championship:
1 Mercedes 338
2 Ferrari 198
3 Red Bull-Honda 136
4 McLaren-Renault 39
5 Renault 36
6 Racing Point-Mercedes 19
7 Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 17
8 Toro Rosso-Honda 17
9 Haas-Ferrari 16
10 Williams-Mercedes 0

5 thoughts to “Hamilton and Mercedes masterclass in France”

  1. French Grand Prix race review as reported by Formula1.com.

    Lewis Hamilton’s immense run of form continued on Sunday as the reigning world champion took a commanding lights-to-flag victory in the 2019 French Grand Prix, his sixth triumph in eight races this season.

    The Mercedes driver built a rhythm through the weekend, culminating in a brilliant pole position on Saturday, which he converted with ease on Sunday afternoon at a scorching Circuit Paul Ricard, crossing the line 18 seconds clear of team mate Valtteri Bottas. With his 200th career points finish, Hamilton extends his lead over the Finn to 36 points.

    It was Mercedes’ eighth successive victory of 2019, and their sixth one-two, maintaining their unbeaten record.

    Charles Leclerc completed the podium after a lonely race to third – though he did give Bottas a fright in the final two laps after benefitting from a late Virtual Safety Car to put the Mercedes driver under pressure.

    Leclerc’s Ferrari team mate Sebastian Vettel could only recover two positions from a poor qualifying session to cross the line fifth but he did secure the fastest lap, and the bonus point that comes with it, on his final lap, having boxed the previous lap for softs.

    Max Verstappen finished where he started in fourth, while Carlos Sainz finished an impressive sixth. His McLaren team mate Lando Norris was set for seventh, but a late hydraulics issues meant he slipped into the clutches of Daniel Ricciardo, who forced his way through on the last lap. Norris had to go off track and dropped behind Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg, limping across the line 10th.

    However, the final sequence of points-paying positions is subject to change as the stewards confirmed they would investigate the incident between Ricciardo and Norris.

    Last year’s French Grand Prix saw action at Turn 1 as Sebastian Vettel collided with Valtteri Bottas, but everyone made it through the opening sequence cleanly in 2019, with Hamilton’s impressive launch allowing him to comfortably retain the lead from pole.

    The fast-starting McLaren’s split, Norris heading to the inside – and getting blocked – and Sainz going to the outside and challenging the Ferrari of Leclerc for third, only to drop back behind the Ferrari and Verstappen to fourth but ahead of Norris. Vettel made no progress and stayed seventh.

    Hamilton set about creating a gap to Bottas, who appeared to lack the pace to compete with his more decorated team mate while Verstappen held off a spirited attack from Sainz in a fight for fourth before stretching away as he made the most of his Red Bull’s superior pace.

    Vettel’s recovery was slow, first passing Norris on lap five and then getting past Sainz two laps later. He initially made ground on Verstappen in fourth, but then curiously started to fall back – with Ferrari ultimately opting to run him deep into the race in an attempt to mix up the strategy.

    Hamilton complained that a part of his seat was broken, but that didn’t appear to slow him down as he traded fastest laps with Bottas. At his first and only stop, the Briton swapped the mediums for the hards and rejoined ahead of Vettel, who was running long, with Bottas well adrift and Leclerc a similar gap further back.

    Though he complained about the feel of the hard tyres, Hamilton’s pace remained impressive throughout and he crossed the line to take his fourth successive win, with Bottas second and Leclerc taking his second straight podium with third.

    Verstappen was fourth, while Vettel pitted on the penultimate lap for soft tyres – when it became clear he had no chance of catching the Red Bull and was comfortably clear of Sainz in the McLaren – to attempt the fastest lap. Despite a poor middle sector, the Ferrari driver managed to snatch it by a fraction of a second – in the process stopping Hamilton from claiming a sixth career Grand Slam (pole position, victory, lead every lap, fastest lap).

    Sainz, the last driver to finish on the lead lap, was sixth and looked to have done enough to hold off Norris – but life became easier for the Spaniard when Norris, after complaining of lazy gearshifts, was informed he had a DRS issue and could no longer use the device. The team later confirmed a hydraulic issue, telling the Briton he should also expect his steering to become increasingly heavy.

    The Briton drifted into the clutches of Ricciardo, but looked to have done enough to secure the position until the Renault driver had a stab around the outside of Turn 8 on the final lap. The Australian ran wide off the track as he completed the move and then squeezed Norris as he came back on, forcing the McLaren off the road.

    The Australian was briefly passed by Raikkonen in the squabble, but made use of the extra tarmac on the back straight to re-pass the Finn and take seventh. After his wide moment Norris dropped to 10th as Raikkonen and Hulkenberg, who were lurking, slipped by to take eighth and ninth respectively. The stewards announced an investigation into Ricciardo leaving the track and gaining an advantage as the chequered flag fell.

    Elsewhere, there was a great dice between Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon, the Toro Rosso drivers fighting hard but fair, with Kvyat coming out on top to claim 14th while Pierre Gasly had a disappointing home race in the Red Bull as he finished just outside the points in 11th, having started the race ninth on the softs that forced an early stop.

    His countryman Romain Grosjean was the race’s only retirement, pulling his Haas into the pits in the closing stages after a race spent near the rear of the field.

    So the first part of F1’s opening double-header of the year is over – and it’s advantage Hamilton once more.

  2. Lewis Hamilton said he feared a repeat of Lance Stroll’s spectacular blowout after suffering from “quite big blisters” on his front tyres during the French Grand Prix.

    Hamilton dominated the race at Paul Ricard, beating teammate Valtteri Bottas by 18 seconds as he extended his championship lead to 36 points.

    However, Hamilton – who reported something broke on his seat during the race – said it “wasn’t easy at all”.

    “There’s always things happening, everything’s on the edge with these cars,” he said immediately after the grand prix.

    “Everything’s running to a temperature, everything is about wear, everything is about reliability.

    “So I was saving the engine and fuel where I can. I was looking after the tyres. I had quite big blisters on the front two tyres.

    “I remember last year Lance had a tyre blowout. So I was a little worried about that.

    “But this has been the best start to the year, so I’ve got to enjoy it.”

    Hamilton’s third victory in a row takes his tally to six wins from eight grands prix in 2019.

    Bottas, who scored his best result in three races, admitted he simply did not have the pace to match Hamilton on Sunday.

    “The start was the best bet for me,” Bottas said. “Ultimately Lewis was quicker today, I couldn’t really match his pace.

    “It’s something for me to have a look before the next one. It’s important to understand today what I did better.”

    Asked where his five-time world champion teammate was pulling extra performance from, Bottas said: “It’s something I need to have a look, he was really strong and consistent today.

    “He’s not unbeatable. I know that. I just need to work hard.”

    Hamilton said the victory left him “hype” after the race, the Briton having turned around a minor deficit to Bottas through practice into pole position and then the win.

    “I’ve been racing a long, long time and it just never gets old,” said Hamilton. “It’s always such a challenge out there. I love trying to find the edge.

    “These guys [at Mercedes] and all the guys back at the factory, we’re creating history together. I’m so proud to be part of this team.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

  3. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel admitted that the Scuderia “failed” the French Grand Prix objective. Motorsport.com has the full details.

    Sebastian Vettel believes Ferrari “failed” to accomplish its objective for the French Grand Prix, as its updates didn’t allow it to substantially reduce the deficit to its Formula 1 rival Mercedes.

    Ferrari brought revised wings and brake ducts as part of an update package for Paul Ricard, but the new parts earned mixed reviews – particularly from Vettel, who said the team “reverted on most of them” before qualifying.

    The fastest Ferrari in qualifying – that of teammate Charles Leclerc – was some six tenths slower than the pole-sitting Mercedes, although Leclerc went on to pressure Valtteri Bottas for second place in the race, while Vettel himself recovered from seventh on the grid to fifth.

    Vettel felt his result was the best possible given where he started, and said he was “pretty happy” with that – but added that “the bigger news for us is that Mercedes is still ahead of us, and we need to find a way to catch them”.

    “I think we wanted to close the gap to Mercedes by a decent amount, and we didn’t,” Vettel said.

    “So in that regard we have to be honest, we failed. But I think nevertheless we tried everything we could, I think Charles’ podium is a little bit of satisfaction.

    “But yeah, as I said, the big objective was to come here and close the gap, but we had to unfortunately learn that our parts weren’t working the way we were expecting them.”

    Vettel switched to a fresh set of soft tyres late on, and duly picked up the extra point for the fastest lap.

    But his last-ditch attempt was just 0.024s quicker than race winner Lewis Hamilton’s final lap on severely worn hard tyres, and for Vettel this offered a glimpse into how big Mercedes’ advantage really was.

    “It was really tight. I don’t know if we had a problem, I couldn’t discharge the battery completely, otherwise it should’ve been a bit safer, to get the fastest lap,” he explained.

    “But it also shows, I think, how much pace they have in hand. If they want to, they just go a lot faster.

    “So, that means there’s a lot of work for us, which we know from qualifying pace, et cetera. So we need to make sure we get closer to put them under pressure.”

  4. Racing Point’s Sergio Perez was left feeling baffled by French Grand Prix penalty. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    Sergio Perez says he was baffled as to why he was penalised for his incident at the start of the French Grand Prix.

    The Racing Point driver was handed a five-second penalty for going off track and gaining an advantage at the start, despite going around the outside of the Turn 3 bollard as instructed by race direction at the beginning of the weekend.

    Perez, starting from 14th on the grid, believes he had done nothing wrong, as he felt he has followed the instructions.

    “I don’t understand why I got the penalty,” Perez told Motorsport.com. “I did what I’m supposed to do, which is to go around the bollard, and you are meant to go slower, but apparently I gained an advantage.

    “I have to review to see what I did wrong, but from my point it’s so hard to judge where you are on track. I ended up behind [Nico] Hulkenberg, which is where I started, where I was into Turn 1, so I just have to review that.”

    He added: “If you go around the bollard you are meant to lose a lot of time. It’s what I did. It’s a pain in the ass to have to go around the bollard, but I stuck to the rules and I still got the penalty.

    “The rule is clear. If you are out for whatever reason you just have to go around the bollard. It’s what I did, but… I think probably going around the bollard is not slow enough so we have to make it slower.”

    Perez continued with his point-less streak, now stretching to four races, after finishing in 12th position at Paul Ricard.

    The Mexican believes the penalty robbed him of a “deserved” points finish.

    “I think we had good form,” he said. “We were close to the Renaults and Alfas. In race pace we were a lot closer today and we deserved some points. But yeah, the points were taken away from us.

    “It’s very promising the pace that we had in the race, so I’m pleased with that. We were a lot closer and we’ll see what we can do better next week. Hopefully we get back to the points.”

  5. Lewis Hamilton says boring Formula 1 races are not the drivers’ fault and instead the blame lies at the rulemakers for a “constant cycle” of making bad decisions.

    Hamilton dominated Sunday’s French Grand Prix, winning by 18 seconds after a straightforward race with little action to earn his sixth victory in eight races maintained Mercedes’ 100% record at the start of the season.

    He said he understood why races were being perceived as “boring” but urged people not to “point the finger at the drivers”.

    “We don’t write the rules,” he said. “We have nothing to do with the money shift [between the teams] and all that stuff. You should put the pressure on the people that are at the head, that should be doing the job.

    “I think they are trying to. But for many, many years they’ve made bad decisions.”

    Asked if he had ever considered “showboating” by allowing rivals ahead of him to spice up the action, Hamilton said that he “can’t win” however he achieves success.

    He said he had really enjoyed his battle in Canada after hounding Sebastian Vettel throughout the grand prix, despite only winning because of his rival’s five-second penalty.

    Hamilton added: “Those are the races that generally people enjoy most. These ones [the French GP] are not the ones people enjoy most.

    “I think it’s important for people to realise it’s not the drivers’ fault. This is a constant cycle of F1 for years and years and years, even before I got to F1.

    “It’s because the way Bernie [Ecclestone, ex-F1 boss] had it set up, the decisions they were making back then. It’s still the same and until that [rulemaking] structure changes it will continue to be the same in my opinion.

    “That’s not my job to do that. My job’s to come here and do the best I can as a driver.”

    Though Hamilton will not do anything artificially to enhance the spectacle on track, he said he is hoping to make a difference away from races.

    The five-time world champion joined Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Grand Prix Drivers’ Association head Alex Wurz in attending a crucial FIA summit over F1’s 2021 rules in Paris last week.

    “Do I have confidence it’s going to shift massively? I have faith it’s going to get better,” he said. “To the point where I went to Paris last week to get involved.

    “I was in that meeting, watching all the bosses of F1, the FIA, the teams, trying to get involved. I have nothing to gain by being there.

    “They’ve been making all these decisions and never once had a driver’s input in that room. If that can be the decisive point that can help shift it and give fans better racing I would be proud to be a part of that.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

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