Lewis Hamilton dominated the French Grand Prix to continue his best ever start to a Formula One season.
Hamilton crossed the line a crushing 18 seconds clear of Valtteri Bottas in the sister Mercedes following an emphatic performance at the Circuit Paul Ricard. On a perfect afternoon, the five-time world champion extended his lead over Bottas, his closest title challenger, to 36 points.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc ran Bottas close in the final stages, but stayed in third ahead of the Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.
Here’s our key talking points from France.
In extreme heat in the south of France, Hamilton continued his scintillating form in 2019, clinching his sixth win in eight races.
Fastest all weekend, he got the cleanest start on Sunday and led every lap of the race to extend his championship lead to 36 points. Although he had seat issues early in the race, the 34-year-old put the issues behind to him to finish a stunning 18 seconds ahead of Bottas.
He drove imperiously around Circuit Paul Ricard, and judging by his sizzling form of late, it looks hard to see him not retain his world championship crown and become a six-time champion – an achievement bettered only by Michael Schumacher, who holds a record seven titles.
Next up is the Austrian GP – a track Hamilton has only won at once in 2016.
WHERE IS BOTTAS 2.0?
Starting second on the grid, the Finn was unable to challenge Hamilton and crossed the line in second – his seventh podium of the season.
It’s fair to say that Bottas has surpassed expectations to claim three poles of his own this year, but to finish so far behind Hamilton in France shows the gulf between both drivers.
As it stands the title battle will come down between Hamilton and Bottas. But for how long?
Hamilton is utterly dominant and looks to only be getting better, while Bottas is slowly waning of that totemic pace we witnessed in Melbourne and Baku.
Dauntingly, Hamilton is entering the midway point of the year where he traditionally raises his intensity even higher, so Bottas needs to step up in Austria if this is to be a genuine battle.
Still, it’s a positive start to the season for Bottas but he needs to challenge better and bring back some of that old needle if he has to have any hope of pushing Hamilton until the end of the season.
FERRARI OFF PACE
Charles Leclerc started a formidable third – some distance behind the Mercedes in qualifying – and it’s fair to say he needed that result after a difficult run of qualifying sessions where he had only finished faster than Sebastian Vettel once.
Finally, for the first since Bahrain, he delivered on his full potential and crossed the line in third for his third podium of the season. The key though will be doing it again at the next race and again after.
Vettel unfortunately endured another frustrating weekend. He looked off the pace of Leclerc all weekend and was only seventh fastest in qualifying.
On race day, the German did his best to soar through the field, finishing fifth and taking the fastest lap.
HEARTBREAK FOR NORRIS
Having delivered the team’s best qualifying result since Italy 2014, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz started from fifth and sixth on the grid and looked high on confidence.
Sainz went on to secure sixth place, a joint season’s best finish for the Spaniard after finishing in the same position in Monaco.
But for his team-mate Norris, it was a heartbreaking afternoon. The British rookie was on course for sixth place until a hydraulics issue affected his pace and balance with ten laps remaining.
Struggling in seventh on the last lap, he was eventually passed by Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg, and could only manage 10th. But with Ricciardo given two time penalties after the race, Norris was promoted to ninth.
DISAPPOINTING HOME FORTUNES
Leclerc may have taken a third podium, but for Frenchman Romain Grosjean and Pierre Gasly it was largely disappointing.
Grosjean looked disappointing all weekend, bowing out in Q1 on Saturday, and then being forced to retire with five laps remaining, when sitting 16th.
Gasly, meanwhile, benefited from Ricciardo’s late penalty and finished 10th.
Lewis Hamilton is in the box seat to extend his championship lead after securing pole position for the French Grand Prix.
The world champion delivered another one-lap masterclass to see off the challenge from Valtteri Bottas in the sister Mercedes.
Formula One’s all-conquering team proved the class of the field yet again to lock out the front row, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc a distant third, and Sebastian Vettel a miserable seventh.
British teenager Lando Norris finished an impressive fifth, the best qualifying result of his young career.
Hamilton, who is 29 points clear of Bottas in the race for his sixth world crown, has won five of the seven rounds staged this season.
And the 34-year-old British driver will be expected to add to that tally at the Circuit Paul Ricard on Sunday after claiming the 86th pole of his life – now 20 more than any other driver.
Bottas had appeared to hold a slight edge over his team-mate this weekend but Hamilton pieced together a fine effort to finish 0.286 seconds clear, improving his laps as the pole shootout wore on.
“I was just chipping away, and the last two laps were the ones,” said Hamilton. “I am happy I got the potential out of the car.
“We are all working our butts off out there. Valtteri had the edge through Q1 and Q2 and I was still dialling in the car, but once I got to Q3 I knew where I had to find the time.
“The first lap was fantastic. I went out for the second run, and I was on for one of the best laps I have done for a long time – I was up four and a half tenths – but it is windy out there and I lost the back end through the penultimate corner.
“I am grateful to be where I am. It is going to be a close race.”
For Vettel, his underwhelming campaign hit a new low after he could manage only seventh.
The four-time world champion, already 62 points behind Hamilton in the standings, lost control of his Ferrari through the chicane and had to abort his opening flying lap.
He failed to hook up a second lap, and crossed the line an eye-watering 1.4 sec slower than Hamilton, and behind both McLarens.
Norris has not been fazed by Formula One life, and the British teenager continued his encouraging start by putting his McLaren fifth on the grid.
McLaren are enjoying a resurgence this year, and although they remain a long way off ending a seven-season winless run, they can be excused for feeling they are turning a corner.
Carlos Sainz finished sixth in the sister McLaren with both orange cars within striking distance of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Indeed, Norris was just nine thousandths behind Verstappen on a day he is unlikely to forget in a hurry.
Norris’ fellow British novice George Russell qualified ahead of team-mate Robert Kubica for an eighth successive race.
The 21-year-old Englishman was nearly half-a-second clear of the struggling Pole.
Provided by Press Association Sport
Ferrari have lost their review into Sebastian Vettel’s five-second penalty at the Canadian Grand Prix, confirming Lewis Hamilton as the race winner.
Twelve days after Vettel was demoted to runner-up in Montreal, punished for rejoining the circuit in a dangerous manner, Ferrari presented new evidence they hoped would overturn the controversial result.
But following a 35-minute presentation by Ferrari’s sporting director Laurent Mekies at the Circuit Paul Ricard ahead of this week’s French Grand Prix, the stewards took less than two hours to announce their original decision will stand.
A statement from the FIA read: “There are no significant and relevant new elements which were unavailable to the parties at the time of the competition concerned.”
The ruling of Formula One’s governing body will come as a significant blow to both Vettel and Ferrari, with Mekies having earlier claimed that the team’s evidence would prove their star driver’s innocence.
“We have requested the FIA’s right of review because we believe that this evidence is quite overwhelming when it comes to establishing that Sebastian did not breach any regulations,” he said.
Ferrari announced their decision to appeal against Vettel’s penalty immediately after the race in Canada before withdrawing their challenge four days later.
However, Article 14 of the FIA’s International Sporting Code – the Right of Review – provided them with another avenue to pursue the case if they could unearth significant fresh evidence.
The Scuderia offered what they regarded as seven new elements to the stewards, including telemetry analysis, a variety of video and still images, and GPS data from both Vettel’s and Hamilton’s cars during the incident on lap 48 in Montreal.
They also included video analysis by Sky Sports’ pundit Karun Chandhok – the former grand prix driver who made 11 appearances with a best finish of 14th – as well as footage from Vettel’s face camera released after the race.
The stewards dismissed five of the seven elements as being “available before the end of the competition.” They added that Vettel’s face camera was “new but not significant and relevant as the evidence contained in this video footage can be seen within other available video.”
Chandhok’s analysis was also deemed irrelevant and simply “a personal opinion by a third party.”
There are no significant and relevant new elements which were unavailable to the parties at the time of the competition concerned
Vettel will now head into Sunday’s eighth round of the championship in the south of France 62 points behind Hamilton.
Vettel has not won since last August’s Belgian Grand Prix – a run of 15 races – while rival Hamilton has triumphed 11 times during that period. His Mercedes team are unbeaten this season.
Provided by Press Association Sport