Lewis Hamilton regained top spot in the 2018 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship standings with a faultless drive to victory at the French Grand Prix, as a Turn 1 collision with Valtteri Bottas at the start of the race meant Sebastian Vettel had to settle for fifth place at the Circuit Paul Ricard. Max Verstappen took second place and Kimi Räikkönen rose from sixth on the grid to take the final podium spot.
The race started in spectacular style, with championship leader Sebastian Vettel colliding with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in Turn 1. The German made a good start but could find no way to attack pole position starter Hamilton. Vettel moved right where Bottas was powering past and as the pair went into the first corner there was contact. Bottas sustained a rear left puncture and Vettel nose damage, which forced both back to the pits for repairs.
There was another incident in Turn 3 when Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly collided. Both Frenchman were ruled out of their home race and with debris on the track, the Safety Car was deployed.
Behind the SC Hamilton now led Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, with Carlos Sainz third for Renault after a good start from P7 on the grid. Daniel Ricciardo was fourth in the second Red Bull with Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen fifth. After their stops for repairs, during which they also took on soft tyres, Vettel and Bottas rejoined in 17th and 18th place respectively.
Racing resumed at the end of lap five and Hamilton controlled the re-start well to hold his lead over an unchanged top five.
Vettel and Bottas were quickly on the march once racing resumed, however, and by lap 10 the Ferrari driver was up to 10th place, with Bottas in P13. Vettel, though, had been placed under investigation by the stewards, and the German was handed a five-second time penalty for causing the collision with his Mercedes rival.
Vettel was on a march, however and in short order he dismissed Force India’s Sergio Perez and Haas’ Romain Grosjean to sit eighth behind Sauber’s Charles Leclerc on lap 16 and then he powered past Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Sainz to take fifth place on lap 20. He was now 30s behind race leader Hamilton, having made a pit stop and taken on soft tyres.
Verstappen was the first of the leaders to make a scheduled pit stop and at the end of lap 25 the Dutchman took on a set of soft tyres before rejoining in fourth place behind Hamilton, Ricciardo and Räikkönen. Vettel was now just 3.7s behind Verstappen in fifth place. Ricciardo then made his stop for softs on lap 28.
Hamilton pitted on lap 33, again for softs, and ceded the lead briefly to Räikkönen. But the Finn made his own trip to pit lane soon after and Hamilton jumped back to first place ahead of Verstappen and Ricciardo who had powered past Vettel when the German made a mistake at the Le Beausset corner.
Räikkönen’s stop dropped him to fifth place behind his team-mate but the Finn had bolted on supersoft tyres and was now lapping considerably faster than Vettel. The German quickly moved over for his team-mate and Räikkönen rose to fourth.
Vettel’s race was then compromised further when he made a second stop for tyres at the end of lap 40. There was an issue with the change and the German was stationary for a crippling 9.1s. He lost no places but there were now 35.9s between him and Räikkönen.
At the front, Hamilton was now seemingly in control. On lap 43 he was 4.8s clear of Verstappen, who was experience a vibration problem on his car, while Ricciardo was a further 9.3 further back. Räikkönen was now 4.5s behind the Australian, with Vettel fifth ahead of Sainz, Magnussen, Bottas (who also had a slow pit stop) Hulkenberg and 10th-placed Leclerc.
Räikkönen then began to close on Ricciardo as his tyre advantage told and with eight laps left he attacked the Australian. The Red Bull driver tried to defend and managed to keep Räikkönen at bay for half the lap but eventually the Finn snuck past through the chicane to take third place.
Sixth-placed Sainz was the next man in trouble and a handful of laps from home he reported a loss of power. He was quickly passed by Magnussen and Bottas and dropped to eighth place, eight seconds ahead of team-mate Hulkenberg.
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 Räikkönen. Ricciardo was fourth, with Vettel fifth ahead of Magnussen, Bottas, Sainz, Hulkenberg and Leclerc.
The result means that Hamilton now heads the drivers’ standings with 145 points, 14 clear of Vettel. Ricciardo moves back to third place with 96 points, four clear of Bottas.
2018 Formula 1 French Grand Prix – Race
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 7.090
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 25.888
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 34.736
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:01.935
6 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:19.364
7 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:20.632
8 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:27.184
9 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:31.989
10 Charles Leclerc Sauber 1:33.873
11 Romain Grosjean Haas 1 lap
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1 lap
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1 lap
14 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1 lap
15 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 1 lap
16 Fernando Alonso McLaren 3 laps
17 Lance Stroll Williams 5 laps
18 Sergio Perez Force India 26 laps
19 Esteban Ocon Force India
20 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso