Lewis Hamilton has taken an easy victory in France thanks to a controlled performance at Circuit Paul Ricard. Max Verstappen raced anonymously to second place while Kimi Raikkonen completed the podium for Ferrari.
Contrary to Saturday's weather situation that saw qualifying become a strategic game, today's race was run under sunny skies, with no rain influencing the outcome of the race.
Right from the outset, it was go, go, go as the lights went out for the 2018 French Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard. However, just as in previous races when last this circuit was within the F1 calendar, the first lap saw utter carnage for the drivers in the top 10 and at the back of the field. Both Mercedes drivers got off to a good start, but Sebastian Vettel was even better, using the slipstream of Hamilton to get extremely close to the front runner. Then the turn into the first corner, Bottas carried more speed through the turn in, leaving ample room for Vettel, however, Vettel locked up and smashed into the right rear of Bottas car, sending him into a spin and off the track. Drivers all around skirted the debris and spinning cars to avoid the collision as another incident involving Gasly hitting Ocon on the approach to the Vettel-Bottas incident saw Gasley retire the car.
Ocon and Bottas both received a tyre puncture, Raikkonen had some damage, and Vettel was seen driving with sparks from his front left tyre due to his front wing dragging on the ground. Vettel also made contact with Grojean during the chaos that was the first corner of the French GP. All of this saw a safety car come out and the new driver order of Hamilton and Verstappen for the top two leading the race, with Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen finishing off the top 5.
Charles Leclerc benefited from all of this to take his Sauber from his incredible qualifying position of 8th, up to as high as 6th place at one point. If Ferrari are leaning towards him, then he certainly is demonstrating he has the talent.
Fortunately, Bottas and Vettel both managed to limp home to the pits without suffering too much additional damage for a tyre and nose cone changes, before setting off once again to chase down the leaders from the last positions on the grid.
Bottas managed to unlap himself after getting back to racing on Lap 6, whilst Alonso suffered a racing mistake that saw him spin out while under pressure from Vettel, just barely missing contact with the Ferrari. However, for his actions in causing a collision with Bottas on the opening lap, Vettel was awarded a 5-second penalty to his time, meaning it would either be applied at the end of the race (if he didn't pit, which was looking like Ferrari's race strategy at the time) or taken once he stopped in the pit box before the mechanics were allowed to touch the car.
Riccardo managed to get himself up into 3rd place as he was jockeying for position against Carlos Sainz, before Raikkonen too made it past the yellow and black Renault. Meanwhile, at the front, Hamilton was continuing to increase his lead over Verstappen to around 2.5 seconds whilst also being around 20 seconds clear of Vettel.
Important to note that a pit stop here is around 24.5 seconds, so for any undercut to be done, that needs to be respected.
Even by lap 12, the stewards were still dealing with the fallout from the Lap 1 incidents with Grojean under investigation for leaving the track and potentially gaining an advantage, though on Lap 19, Bottas added salt to the wound by passing him for the 10th place position, and it's single point it offers.
From here on out, there were two main things happening: firstly, there was chatter among all the team radios of approaching rain, and secondly, there was a display of the works Ferrari's speed and power compared to the rest of the teams. The red prancing horses, especially Vettel, showed just how much of an incredible machine Ferrari has given them, as he moved up the field from last place, to 8th by Lap 21 and eventually to finish in 5th place.
By Lap 27, Verstappen pitted for new soft tyres - painfully aware of the potential to be overtaken in the pit lane by the rapid red german; however, it was not to be, and he manged to come out in 4th place behind Raikkonen and more importantly, ahead of Vettel. The same tactic was employed for Ricciardo on Lap 29, however, this time, Vettel managed to go past him as he was leaving the pit lane.
Meanwhile to all this action, Perez stopped in the pit lane reporting an engine issue and was ultimately retired - particularly bad, since this was a brand new Mercedes engine for him. Sirotkin was also awarded a 5-second penalty for an incident he was involved in where the stewards claimed he was going too slow under the safety car, however, since he was already last on the grid... well, not really much to be said about that there, other than the fact it is quite funny to be in the top racing formula and be given a penalty for going too slow!!
Lap 33, Hamilton pits from the lead of the GP and rejoins slightly behind Raikkonen in second position, as Ricciardo battles Vettel on much newer tyres for 4th position, and he makes the move stick with ease and finesse on Lap 34. I'll bet he was smiling his contagious Aussie smile as he made the move stick on his previous teammate at Red Bull.
Lap 35 saw Grojean receive a 5-second grid penalty for causing a collision on Lap 1 amidst the carnage of all the cars, along with Raikkonen coming into the pits and returning to P5, 17 seconds ahead of Bottas in sixth. Bottas day then got worse as on his pit stop around lap 41 saw his rear jackman drop the car prematurely causing him to lose multiple places because of it. Meanwhile, his team mate Hamilton was setting purple sectors all round. Leclerc continued to make progress in the mid-field as he overtook overtook Alonso after his pit stop, and then made a move on Hartley before chasing down Hulkenberg.
Bottas decided to pick up the pace and make amends for his lost time in the pit box by coming out and setting a few purple sector times on lap 46 with his new and fresh tyres.
Alonso then had a go at the woeful performance of McLaren again this weekend by radioing in to the pit wall saying "No brakes, no tyres, we're out of the points" whilst he was running 13th behind his teammate Vandoorne.
Ricciardo somewhere along the lines lost a flap on his front wing from some debris hitting it and breaking it off as Christian Horner would later state, and that ultimately meant that he was no longer able to keep up with Verstappen, and ultimately, after a few choice defensive driving maneuvers from the Australian, he had to give way to Raikkonen in similar fashion to previous Ferrari overtakes of the day, under braking and with a slight lockup on the front left into the chicane.
Oddly enough, a lot of the drivers had been complaining about this chicane on the long straight, however, for much of the racing today, it was this chicane that created the most opportunity for overtakes!!
5 laps from the end, Alonso finally pitted for new ultrasoft tyres, and a few setting changes to his car to let him gun for the fastest lap - we assume as a peace offering for the lack of performance. Sainz then came on the team radio and said that he was losing engine power, and despite him calling for help with some sort of fix from his team, the Spaniard lost two positions to Magnussen and Bottas down the main straight.
Lance Stroll then had a moment where his front left tyre suffered a blowout at high speeds, and sent him careening off the track and into the barriers. A virtual safety car was then deployed on the penultimate lap which would continue until there was less than half a lap to go. Bottas had to deal with double yellow flags being waved despite only having a 0.6-second gap to make up, however, he was unsuccessful and finished in 7th position.
Despite all the crashing and bashing behind him, Lewis Hamilton nursed his car to the finish line, where the chequered flag was waved at the correct lap this time, to win the 2018 French Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard -- a 44th win for the number 44 car. Verstappen finished in second, with Raikkonen blocking out the podium in 3rd as Ricciardo dealt with his loss of front wing flap to finish in 4th position ahead of Vettel in 5th, Magnussen in 6th and Bottas in 7th. Sainz, Hulkenberg and Leclerc with an outstanding drive for Sauber F1 finish off the top 10.
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||53||1:30:11.385||25|
|2||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||53||+7.090s||18|
|4||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||53||+34.736s||12|
|6||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||53||+79.364s||8|
|7||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG||53||+80.632s||6|
|10||16||Charles Leclerc||Sauber Ferrari||53||+93.873s||1|
|11||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||52||+1 lap||0|
|12||2||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren Renault||52||+1 lap||0|
|13||9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber Ferrari||52||+1 lap||0|
|14||28||Brendon Hartley||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||52||+1 lap||0|
|15||35||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Mercedes||52||+1 lap||0|
|16||14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Renault||50||DNF||0|
|17||18||Lance Stroll||Williams Mercedes||48||DNF||0|
|NC||11||Sergio Perez||Force India Mercedes||27||DNF||0|
|NC||31||Esteban Ocon||Force India Mercedes||0||DNF||0|
|NC||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||0||DNF||0|