Lewis Hamilton wins 2018 French Grand Prix
PUBLISHED: 16:49 24 June 2018 | UPDATED: 18:33 24 June 2018
Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton won the 2018 French Grand Prix from pole position with a "faultless performance".
The 33-year-old Mercedes F1 driver from Hertfordshire took the chequered flag at the Circuit Paul Ricard today (Sunday) to reclaim the lead in the 2018 Drivers’ Championship.
Hamilton won the race for Mercedes ahead of Red Bull rival Max Verstappen.
Kimi Raikkonen took third place in the provisional French GP results for Ferrari.
It was Hamilton’s 65th career victory at the return of the French Grand Prix, his third of the 2018 season and 44th with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport.
With 145 points, Hamilton leads in the drivers’ standings from Sebastian Vettel (131 points) by 14 points.
Hamilton said: “When you’re constructive and criticise yourself, approach a challenge with new methods and a new-found determination, it’s a great feeling to then get the result.
“But it’s also disappointing for the team as we had the opportunity to take a 1-2, which is always incredible as you achieve your ultimate goal as a team.
“I was very comfortable with the balance this afternoon. Max [Verstappen] had decent pace, but I could maintain the gap at around five seconds.”
Hamilton added: “The fresh engine put us back in line with everyone else who took a new PU in Canada and everybody in the team should be feeling happy today for the good work they have done.
“But there’s a long way to go and we’ll keep approaching the rest of the season like we approached today.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said: “This was a perfect way for Lewis to start the triple header and to bounce back from the disappointment of Canada.
“Whenever he has a tough weekend, he has this fantastic ability to bounce straight back, and we saw that again here in Paul Ricard.
“He pretty much controlled the whole race and didn’t put a wheel wrong at any point.”
Hamilton’s Silver Arrows team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished a hard-earned seventh after being hit at the start by Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari and suffering some damage to the floor of his Mercedes.
The Safety Car was deployed on the first lap, with Bottas limping back to the pits. That unplanned stop left him P18 after being spun around at Turn 1 on the opening lap.
However, Bottas fought his way through the field to finish today’s race in seventh place – and he set the fastest lap of the race in the process.
Bottas said: “That was a shame because we had a strong car today as Lewis’ result shows.
“But my race was lost in Turn One. I was on the outside going into it and I knew that keeping that line would put me on the inside for Turn Two.
“Then suddenly I got a hit from behind, had a puncture and damaged my floor.
“After that it was difficult as the car was quite damaged and I could feel the lack of rear end.
“I was sliding around and had to do a second pit stop, which was unfortunately slow so we lost more time there.”
With 92 points, Bottas is now fourth in the drivers’ title race and looking for his luck to change.
The Finn added: “I guess today was just not my day; in a way it sums up my season so far.
“But there are some positives – we were strong as a team, although unfortunately we could not turn that into a perfect points result.
“I also set the fastest lap of the race despite the condition of the car.
“I’ll keep my head down, work hard and hopefully the luck will turn around at some point – I think it’s about time.”
Of Bottas’ race, Mercedes team supremo Wolff said: “Sebastian clearly misjudged his braking for Turn One and made a mistake, which cost both him and Valtteri dearly.
“When the car stopped, we saw that the floor area around the tyre was pretty badly damaged and flapping about – and Valtteri described the car balance as ‘shocking’.
“Taking that into account, it was a battling performance from him, too. Overall, though, we leave seeing the positive side of our performance this weekend.
“The car was quick and with our upgrades, it felt like we made a step forward.
“But we can’t afford to make any assumptions about what this means for the next races – it’s still a three-way fight and we will need to be at our very best if we wish to repeat this performance.”
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport (237 points) lead the Constructors’ Championship by 23 points from Ferrari (214 points) after today’s result.
Silver Arrows technical director James Allison added: “It is hard to be unhappy on a day when you have won the race in fine style, both reclaiming the lead in the drivers’ championship and extending our advantage in the constructors’.
“Lewis drove a splendid race and had everything under control throughout; it was a faultless performance.
“But it is hard not to feel very sorry for Valtteri, who also had a terrific weekend and saw his race compromised at Turn One through no fault of his own.
“On the bright side, though, the car performance was good all weekend and we can travel to Austria with the optimism that we can keep up the good work in the next races.”