The French Grand Prix is back on the F1 calendar for the first time in 10 years, and it turned out to be a half decent race after the snore-fest that was the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks ago.
We started the race with an immediate safety car period after Sebastian Vettel rear-ended Valtteri Bottas going into turn 1, tipping Bottas into a spin and causing a puncture, while Vettel suffered front wing damage, forcing both drivers to pit at the end of lap 1, dropping them to the back of the pack.
Still on lap 1, at turn 3, Pierre Gasly tried to dive up the inside of Esteban Ocon with the pair making contact, putting both drivers out of the race. This is what brought out the safety car to clear up the debris, in the meantime, Bottas and Vettel pitted for running repairs, also switching onto the yellow soft tires.
The race restarted on lap 6 and, nothing changed, not even a challenge for position, let alone a change of position. However, Daniel Ricciardo did move past Renault’s Carlos Sainz in the run down to the turn 8 chicane for third place four laps later, which was expected with Sainz running higher than Renault’s form.
Vettel and Bottas were recovering from the back of the grid, by lap 11, the German had moved into the top 10 while the Finn was up to 12th place. However, it took Bottas a further nine laps to break into the top 10, Mercedes later confirmed that Bottas had floor damage, which was hindering his pace.
Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton was quietly getting on with it out in front, Hamilton had led from pole position, managing the gap in a flawless drive. Followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who benefitted from Vettel’s mistake which took both himself and Bottas out of contention for the French win.
Clearly, after the first lap incident that relegated them to the back, Vettel and Bottas switched to the hardest of the available tire compounds with view of running 98% of the race distance without stopping again, which, didn’t work out for either driver, both drivers having to pit again 10 laps from the end.
Vettel was running in 3rd place, but lost out to Ricciardo and teammate Kimi Raikkonen as his tires were going off, which triggered a stop, but only after Bottas stopped for the same reason. Ferrari was going to do the same as Mercedes to cover off Bottas, who ended up behind the HAAS of Kevin Magnussen in seventh place, while Vettel finished in fifth place, handing the championship lead back to Hamilton.
Ricciardo, who was running in third place was suffering from a lack of front end grip in the closing laps due to debris getting stuck in his front wing, which allowed Raikkonen to close in and pass the Australian with just four laps remaining. Ricciardo put up a robust defense, but could not stay ahead of the Finn.
Sebastian Vettel now has a 14 point deficit to Lewis Hamilton in the world drivers championship, which you have to say, like last season, Vettel is making errors, costing himself valuable championship points.
Finally, conspiracy theory time, Paul Ricard is one of the three circuits where the reduced trend Pirelli tires are used, which are deemed to benefit Mercedes more than other teams. Mercedes won in Barcelona, now Paul Ricard, will it be a slam dunk in Silverstone for a trio of wins with the reduced tread tires?
French Grand Prix 2018 Results
|1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:30:11.385
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +7.090s
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +25.888s
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +34.736s
5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +61.935s
|6. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +79.364s
7. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +80.632s
8. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +87.184s
9. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +91.989s
10. Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +93.873s