Lewis Hamilton avoided a first-lap accident at the start of Sunday’s (June 24) French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard. The race leader then survived a late virtual safety car to take the victory by seven seconds over Max Verstappen. It’s his third win of the year and first after two rough races in Monaco and Canada allowed rivals to close the gap in Formula 1’s World Championship.
But if there was any tension at all on Hamilton, he certainly did not express it afterwards.
“It is definitely a beautiful day,” He said. “I am very, very happy with the result, with the feeling, and with all the work that the team did. The car felt great.”
Hamilton now leads the Formula 1 world championship by 14 points ahead of Sebastian Vettel.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen took third.
Hamilton controlled the race most of the way, except for a pit stop on lap 35, which temporarily gave Raikkonen the lead. But once the Briton got back out front, he stayed there unchallenged the rest of the race.
For fans complaining about the lack of overtaking, the race itself outside of Hamilton was challenging all afternoon. Many passes happened deeper in the field as the French track lent itself to great competition.
The Grand Prix began with intense action right from the opening lap. That’s when Vettel hit Valtteri Bottas in his Mercedes, spinning the Finn around; Vettel also sustained damage to his front wing. Further back, Frenchmen Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly collided, putting both out of the race and bringing out the safety car for the next five laps.
Then, with only four laps to go, Lance Stroll punctured his tire and went flying into the barriers, leaving strips of rubber all over the track. The virtual safety car was called until just over half a lap to go. That was just enough time for Hamilton to cross the track in first.
Now, all the pressure shifts back to Vettel after two weeks of chasing down Hamilton in the championship race. Vettel, after working his way through the grid, ran out of tire grip and finished fifth.
Just ahead of him, Daniel Ricciardo took fourth in the other Red Bull entry. Kevin Magnussen gave the American Haas F1 team sixth, running just ahead of Bottas. Behind him, it was a good day for the home French crowd as Carlos Sainz Jr. ran ahead of Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg in eighth and ninth, respectively, despite the former losing power just laps from the end of the race.
But all eyes were on Hamilton Sunday in one of his best, most complete races of the F1 season. The Briton, fresh from victory even complimented the track layout. Paul Ricard had not been in use for this sport in over 26 years.
“I was enjoying driving the track,” he said. “It was a quiet afternoon for me.”