Lewis Hamilton cruises to French GP victory
Lewis Hamilton took a stranglehold on the world title with a dominant victory in the French Grand Prix.
Hamilton was in a league of his own, even over his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, as the 34-year-old Briton took his sixth win in eight races.
The five-time champion leads Bottas in this year’s title race by 36 points – a win and a fifth place – after just eight races.
Bottas finished a distant second, holding off an attack from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on the final lap.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari took fourth and fifth and the only minor irritation for Hamilton was that Vettel managed to steal the point for fastest lap, by virtue of a late pit stop for fresh soft tyres.
Hamilton was in control from the start, after converting pole position into a lead at the first corner.
He set a steady pace in the opening laps as he looked after his tyres with a full fuel load, but as the pit stops approached, Hamilton piled on the pressure.
He extended his lead over Bottas by nearly five seconds in eight laps before the Finn was called in first for his pit stop on lap 23 to ensure he covered Leclerc, who had stopped two laps before.
Hamilton followed Bottas in, and re-emerged with an even bigger lead of 11 seconds, and the race was effectively over.
It was a generally soporific race, with little in the way of competitive tension among the front-running cars, and the championship looks to be heading in the same direction.
Hamilton and Bottas were evenly matched in the first few races of the season, but the Briton has found another gear in the past three events and his team-mate currently looks a bit breathless as he tries to keep up.
Anything going on behind the Mercedes?
Leclerc had a lonely race behind the Mercedes in third, unable to keep pace with Hamilton and Bottas for much of the afternoon, but comfortably able to fend off Verstappen behind.
The Ferrari closed in on Bottas in the final laps as the Finn battled tyre blisters, which also affected Hamilton. But Bottas did just enough to hold off Leclerc on the final lap.
Ferrari had hoped that they might be able to get Vettel ahead of Verstappen by running him long, once the German had moved up to fifth place past the McLarens from his seventh place start.
But a plan to run long and attack Verstappen on fresher tyres at the end of the race was scuppered when Vettel locked a front tyre into Turn One just three or four laps after agreeing the strategy with his engineers.
He immediately got on the radio to say they needed to pit because the tyre was too badly damaged to continue with the plan.
That meant Vettel had tyres that were only five laps fresher than Verstappen, who was easily able to hold off the Ferrari – in fact Vettel slowly dropped back, rather than gaining on the Red Bull. – bbc.com