Lewis Hamilton regained the championship lead on Sunday afternoon after he took victory in the first French Grand Prix in a decade.
The four-time world champion led the way at the start but it was his main rival, Sebastian Vettel, who made the best start. As the Ferrari man started on softer compound tyres (the softer the tyre the higher the tyre wear which gives slightly more grip so can go faster over a lap) he was comfortably alongside Valtteri Bottas who started second on the grid. However, Vettel’s start was almost too good as he was then right on the gearbox of Hamilton and found himself boxed in by the two Mercedes.
Vettel had nowhere to go and found himself tangling with Bottas at turn one with both drivers sustaining damage. A further collision at turn three and four between the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly and the Force India of Esteban Ocon, resulting in the two French men retiring from the race, brought out the safety car. Both Vettel and Bottas had to pit. Putting them at the back of the race, however, they then had made their mandatory pitstop (have to run two of the three available compound tyres during a grand prix) and both fitted the soft tyres which were the hardest compound available for the race so could go to the end without stopping again.
At the restart, Hamilton romped away in front but Vettel didn’t take long to start cutting through the field only taking two laps to get up from 17th to 15th. Bottas seemed to follow suit however then started to find it trickier to get past people. Vettel, however, was to receive a five second time penalty for causing a collision with Bottas at the start of the race. So if Vettel was to pit again, he would have to sit there for five seconds before the pit crew could work on the car, or if he wasn’t to pit, five seconds would be added to his overall race time.
As the Ferrari and Mercedes made their way through the field, Sauber driver Charles Leclerc was doing his best to keep himself in the points. Starting from eighth, he made a few positions after the carnage in lap one but found it difficult to hold on to places with his inferior Sauber. The Monaco native did hold on to finish 10th which was his fourth points finish this season.
The other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen was showing good pace throughout the race as he was running the ultrasoft tyres compared to the others around him running supersoft (ultrasoft are a softer compound). Changing onto fresher tyres later in the race meant he was able to claim third place ahead of the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.
Back with Vettel and Bottas, on around lap 40 out of 53, it seemed the Ferrari was now feeling the effect of pushing hard through the field on tyres that have been on since lap two. Losing around two seconds a lap, it was inevitable that Vettel had to pit again. It was Bottas who pitted first which gave Vettel the buffer to pit for fresher tyres and finish the race strong. Vettel finishing fifth and Bottas finished seventh after having to come back from the back of the grid is a pretty solid day for both drivers considering. A late virtual safety car brought by the left front tyre of Lance Stoll’s Williams exploding stopped Bottas from overtaking Magnussen for sixth.
Hamilton’s third race win of the season sees him regain the championship lead moving onto 145 points with him now 14 points ahead of Vettel. Verstappen finished second moving him a tad closer to Raikkonen in the championship standings.
Full race classification; 1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), 4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull), 5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), 6. Kevin Magnussen (Haas), 7. Valttari Bottas (Mercedes), 8. Carlos Sainz (Renault), 9. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault), 10. Charles Leclerc (Sauber), 11. Roman Grosjean (Haas), 12. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren), 13. Marcus Eriksen (Sauber), 14. Brenden Hartley (Toro Rosso), 15. Sergey Sirotkin (Williams).
Retired/DNF: Fernando Alonso (McLaren), Sergio Perez (Force India), Lance Stroll (Williams), Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso), Esteban Ocon (Force India).