Lewis Hamilton defended Sebastian Vettel’s error-prone record despite taking advantage of his rival’s crash at the French Grand Prix.
Hamilton ruled from start to finish on Formula One’s return to France after a decade away to claim his third victory of the season and move 14 points clear of Vettel in their race for a fifth world championship.
Vettel started third but smashed into Valtteri Bottas’s Mercedes on the 210mph opening-bend charge here at the Paul Ricard Circuit. The Ferrari driver fell to the back of the pack after he pitted for a new front wing, and was then punished with a five-second penalty.
He recovered to finish fifth, but after costly collisions in Baku, Singapore and Mexico last year, as well as running off the road at April’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the German’s latest faux pas was his fifth high-profile mistake in only 12 months.
“It is really a racing incident in Turn One and those things can happen,” a diplomatic Hamilton said.
“We’re all going into that first corner at great speeds.
“I don’t feel that he’s particularly making more mistakes. We’re all on the edge, we’re fighting for the world championship, and we’re not pootling around. We’re out there putting our lives on the line.
“We’re out there putting the cars as far beyond the edge as we can in the safest manner. It’s not like a train track, you don’t just stay on the rails. Sometimes you can go off. We’re only human.”
Magnifique !! 🇫🇷 It’s an amazing feeling winning here. I feel very grateful for a solid weekend. Huge thanks to every single person at the Team for always pushing the boundaries and never giving up. I want to thank each and every one of them 🙏🏾⚡️ #FrenchGP #F1 @mercedesamgf1 @f1 ・・・ The turning point in the title race? @lewishamilton leads by 14pts from Seb after a supreme win in France . #FrenchGP #F1 #Formula1 #LewisHamilton #Mercedes
Hamilton, however, believed the stewards were too lenient on Vettel for the collision. Bottas, who raced on with a wounded Mercedes, could manage only seventh.
Hamilton shook his head as he watched a television replay in the green room before the podium celebrations.
“Jeez, he took him right out,” Hamilton said. “Oh, man, that’s crazy.”
He later added: “For me, it is definitely disappointing because the team had a chance for a one-two finish.
“When someone destroys your race through their error, and they get a tap on the hand, and are allowed to come back and finish ahead of the person they took out, it does not
“Ultimately, Seb should not have not been able to finish ahead of Valtteri because he took him out of the race.”
Niki Lauda, Mercedes’ non-executive chairman, added: “Why did Vettel only get five seconds for this enormous mistake?
“I don’t understand. It’s too little. Five seconds is nothing. He really destroyed the whole race for himself and for Bottas.”
Aseel Al-Hamad created history on Sunday as she became the first Saudi Arabian woman to drive an Formula One car.
Hamad took a lap of the Le Castellet circuit prior to the start of the French Grand Prix, on the same day the driving ban for women in Saudi Arabia was lifted.
She drove the car as part of a parade of Renault cars and was very excited by the turn of events.
Find out what she had to say, in the video below:
Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole position for the French Grand Prix as the crisis at his former team McLaren took another twist.
Hamilton stormed to the 76th pole of his career on Formula One’s first visit to France in a decade with a dominant display at the Paul Ricard Circuit.
The British driver saw off his rival team-mate Valtteri Bottas by more than one tenth, while Sebastian Vettel, whom he trails by a single championship point, finished third and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen fourth.
But Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne qualified 16th and 18th of the 20 runners on another humiliating day for the failing McLaren team.