Lewis Hamilton has delivered a masterclass in the 2019 French Grand Prix to claim his 79th victory in Formula 1, and sixth of 2019.
French Grand Prix Masterclass From Hamilton
Having started from pole, the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport driver comfortably kept the lead at the start and then flew off into the distance. In the first half especially, his pace was untouchable for all, including teammate Valtteri Bottas, who came home second. The Englishman now has a 36 point lead over Bottas in the Drivers’ classification, while Mercedes leads Scuderia Ferrari by 140 in the Constructors’ classification.
Having taken pole and the win, Hamilton might have hoped to claim the hat-trick by also setting the fastest race lap, but only after he had taken the chequered flag was he denied by Sebastian Vettel. The German was comfortably fifth and therefore had time to pit for a fresh set of Soft tyres to go for the additional point that comes with the fastest lap. Having been informed of this, Hamilton put the hammer down and set an incredible 1.32.764 on Hard tyres that had already done 39 laps and Vettel beat him on the very last lap by just 24 thousandths of a second.
“I’ve been racing a long, long time but this just never gets old. It’s always a challenge out there and I just love trying to find the edge, and really being on top of this machine. This is actually an awesome track to drive in the race, there are some really technical areas. It may look easy from the outside but it wasn’t easy at all, everything’s always on the edge. So, when I could, I was saving tyres, saving the engine, saving fuel. I had quite big blisters on my front tyres which I was a little worried about. But we got to the end and I couldn’t do it without this incredible team. I’m so proud of everyone and so proud to be part of this group of people. This has been the best start of the year so we have got to enjoy it,” said Hamilton.
Bottas Holds On For Second
Valtteri Bottas, however, was struggling with tyre degradation in the closing stages and he could see third-placed Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari getting ever larger in his mirrors. Bottas managed to hold him off but only by under a second.
“It was a fairly quiet race in the end. The start was my best bet, but Lewis also had a good start, so the opportunity wasn’t there. Lewis was very quick today; I was trying to keep up, but my front tyres were starting to fall into pieces, both on the Mediums and at the end on the Hard tyres towards the end as well. We were concerned with the blistering we saw in the last part of the race, so I had to back off a little bit. There was definitely a bit of margin left, but we wanted to be on the safe side and make it to the end. But ultimately, Lewis had the pace advantage today and kept the tyres in better shape, so it’s something for me to have a look at and learn. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done as a team, scoring another 1-2 is a great result,” added Bottas.
Another Podium for Charles Leclerc
This was Leclerc’s third F1 podium, the second in a row, coming at the end of a weekend in which he managed to get the most out of his car. His team-mate had a less successful time in France, with the fastest lap point offering only scant consolation. Vettel started from seventh and soon despatched the two McLaren drivers, but after that, he never seemed like being able to close on Max Verstappen in fourth spot.
“Overall, this weekend was pretty positive. I’m pleased I was able to fight for second place right at the end, even if I never had a real chance to attack Valtteri. I am satisfied because we managed to maximise the potential of the car. It was about time, because after a few so-so weekends, everything went smoothly right from the start of free practice and then in qualifying and the race, where our strategy was perfect both in terms of the timing of the pit stop and our tyre management in the second part of the race. I believe hard work always pays off and I feel we proved that this weekend. Now we go straight to Austria where I hope we can maintain this same good form,” said Leclerc.
Mixed Day For Red Bull Racing
Once again, it was a day of mixed fortunes for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing: Max Verstappen had something to smile about, but Pierre Gasly had a poor time of it in his home race. The Dutchman tried at the very first corner to take third spot off Leclerc, but once that didn’t pay off, he produced another mature performance to come home fourth, something of a habit now, given he has finished in that position in five races and four qualifying sessions out of the eight events this season.
Gasly suffered as one of the few drivers to have to start on the Soft tyres. The Frenchman crossed the finish line in eleventh place, but two five-second penalties for Daniel Ricciardo, promoted Gasly to tenth after the race. The other Frenchman, Romain Grosjean had an even worse time of it, as the only one of the 20 drivers not to see the chequered flag, retiring six laps from the end.
“It was a good drive by Max again and splitting the Ferraris was the maximum we could do today. With the heat, the tyres were always going to make for a bit of a marginal one-stop race, so Max managed the situation very well to come home in P4, his fifth fourth position of the year. For Pierre, his first stint on the soft tyre was pretty good and he held P8 with relative ease, managing to go longer than anyone expected. The mechanics completed an incredibly fast pit stop which got him back out ahead of Daniel who was trying to get the undercut. Unfortunately, on the hard tyre Pierre just didn’t have any pace and slipped down the order. Finishing P11 is frustrating as we are outside the points, so we will check everything on his car to ensure there are no hidden issues,” added Team Principal Christian Horner.
Tough Home Race For Renault
The French Grand Prix was particularly important for the home team, as Renault was also celebrating the 40th anniversary of its first Formula 1 win, with Jean-Pierre Jabouille twice demonstrating the RS10 with which he won the 1979 French Grand Prix at Dijon Prenois. However, today’s result probably did not live up to the expectations of the French firm’s senior management, nor indeed the French fans, of whom there were a total of 135,000 over the weekend from Thursday to Sunday.
In the end, they left the track with just the four points collected by Nico Hulkenberg. Having taken the flag in seventh place, Daniel Ricciardo was later given two 5-second penalties, the first for failing to rejoin the track safely, as he was trying to pass Lando Norris and the second for having exceeded the track limits and gaining an advantage when he was fighting Kimi Raikkonen in a tight scrap on the final lap. It dropped the Australian to eleventh on the result sheet.
“It’s clearly disappointing to drop outside the points with a post-race penalty, especially at the team’s home race. The last lap was a lot of fun, we had a fight and I enjoyed it. I’d rather give it a go than not try at all, and I’m sure the French fans and the people at home liked watching. It’s a shame to be penalised for it, but we’ll aim to move on from that as quickly as possible. In terms of the race, I feel like I missed out a little bit at the start, especially after a really good launch off the line. I braked too early for turn one and that was too conservative looking back. That made the rest of the race hard work, but we kept it clean and smooth from there. There are still a lot of positives to take and we’ll be looking for an immediate response in Austria,” said a disappointed Daniel Ricciardo.
McLaren Score Best Result of 2019
Hulkenberg and Gasly were not the only ones to benefit from Ricciardo’s penalty, so too did Raikkonen and Norris, classified seventh and ninth. They both drove strong races, especially the McLaren driver. Norris produced a gritty drive in the early stages before struggling towards the end because of a loss of hydraulic fluid which meant he also lost power steering. McLaren’s great weekend saw Carlos Sainz finish a brilliant sixth, the first driver from outside the top three teams not to have been lapped. Raikkonen’s seventh-place equals his best so far this season and ends a points drought for the team that dates back to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
“Congratulations to our entire team, at the track and back home in Woking, plus of course the drivers. It’s been our best weekend of the season and it was encouraging to see our car performing well from the first practice session until the end of the race. This gives us good momentum to keep pushing flat out as the pendulum of performance swings between teams from circuit to circuit. Carlos and Lando both did a great job managing the tyres over the distance. It was unfortunate that Lando lost positions on the final lap but he and the engineers did very well to battle through the second half of the race after a hydraulic issue arose affecting gear shifting, braking and steering,” concluded McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl.
The Le Castellet weekend marked the start of the first pair of back-to-back races of the year. As such the F1 Grand Prix circus is packing up in haste, along with the teams from F2 and F3, ready to make the dash to the Red Bull Ring in the Austrian Alps where the next round, the FORMULA 1 MYWORLD GROSSER PREIS VON ÖSTERREICH 2019, takes place next weekend from 28 to 30 June.