Formula 1

French GP: Hamilton in a class of his own, takes sixth win of 2019

3 Mins read
Lewis Hamilton - Formula 1 - 2019 French GP
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Lewis Hamilton breezed to his sixth victory of the 2019 Formula 1 season with a dominant performance at the French Grand Prix.

Hamilton finished 18 seconds ahead of his Mercedes AMG Motorsport team-mate Valtteri Bottas and led every one of the 53 laps at Circuit Paul Ricard from pole position.

The result was Mercedes’ tenth successive victory – and its eighth to start the season – matching its run between the 2016 Monaco and Singapore Grands Prix.

Charles Leclerc held third for Scuderia Ferrari, just 0.929 behind Bottas after a late charge, comfortably ahead of Red Bull Racing‘s Max Verstappen, who struggled with engine lag through the race.

Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel used a longer first stint on the medium tyres to finish in fifth, two spots ahead of his starting grid position.

Vettel also claimed the fastest lap on the final lap of the race after a tactical late switch to soft tyres, preventing Hamilton from an eighth career Grand Slam.

The top four of Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc and Verstappen all held their positions at the start, with the McLaren F1 Team duo of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. squabbling behind them – the latter edging ahead of his team-mate and countering Vettel’s threat around the outside of Turn 1.

Hamilton wasted little time in stretching his advantage over Bottas, setting purple lap times on 8 of the first 15 laps, despite being asked by his race engineer Pete Bonnington to keep “HPP shift position four” selected at all times and reporting an issue with his seat.

The pitstops failed to change the order dramatically, with the gaps built up in the first 25 laps enough to allow freedom and flexibility with strategy.

Verstappen was the first of the frontrunners to pit for the hard tyres on lap 21, reacting to the strategy used by both McLarens and ceding a position to the recovering Vettel – who was told to “go as long as possible” on his mediums.

Bottas and Hamilton’s respective stops on laps 22 and 23 allowed Vettel to latch onto the tail of Hamilton for a brief moment, but a front left lockup at Turn 1 put paid to any chance of a battle between the pair and forced the German to change tyres.

In the battle for second Leclerc was asked if he could increase his pace, but said that he would hurt the tyres unnecessarily .

Even Mercedes was struggling in the 31C ambient heat and 54C track temperature with blistering, but both Hamilton and Bottas were told not to worry about any issues they encountered.

Leclerc made Bottas work for second place as Hamilton eased to the chequered flag, taking advantage of Bottas’s misfortune in lapped traffic to close to within a second on the final lap.

But the Mercedes had the performance in hand to defend from a last corner lunge by the Ferrari to wrap up a sixth 1-2 of the season.

Sainz Jr. held down sixth place for McLaren in a quiet but strong race for the Spaniard, as his team-mate fell away at the end with hydraulic issues.

Carlos Sainz Jr. & Lando Norris - Formula 1 - 2019 French GP
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Norris was asked to not use DRS and be careful on upshifts in the last 10 laps and was powerless to keep the intense challenge of Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Räikkönen and Nico Hülkenberg behind.

Ricciardo made his move around the outside of the McLaren at Turn 8 on the last lap, forcing Norris wide on the exit of the immediate right hander of Turn 9 and allowing the Alfa Romeo Racing car of Räikkönen to draw alongside the Renault F1 Team car.

The Australian forced his way past Räikkönen down the inside of Turn 10, while team-mate Hülkenberg looked for an opening to end Renault’s home grand prix on a high note.

Romain Grosjean did not enjoy a positive home race, retiring in the Haas F1 Team garage on lap 44 and was the only retirement of the race.

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*Ricciardo was handed two five-second time penalties post-race for last lap infringements against Norris and Räikkönen, dropping him from seventh to eleventh.

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