Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France was the setting for the eighth round of this year’s FIA Formula 1 Championship, where Lewis Hamilton won the French Prix for the second time. It is also Hamilton’s 79th career victory and sixth win out of eight races this season. Teammate Valtteri Bottas came home second to secure the team’s 50th 1-2 finish in Formula 1 and eighth win of 2019, continuing their grip on the world championship. Hamilton now leads the Drivers’ Championship by 36 points from Bottas and Mercedes lead the Constructors’ Championship with 338 points, ahead of second placed Ferrari on 198 points.
Ferrari are still playing catch up with the third podium spot going to Charles Leclerc, while Sebastian Vettel, who qualified well down the grid, only managed to come fifth but did manage to get the fastest lap of the race on the final lap, as some consolation.
Max Verstappen stayed in his qualifying position to finish fourth, while Carlos Sainz finished an impressive sixth in his McLaren. Teammate Lando Norris was on course for seventh, but hydraulics issues towards the end of the race caused him to get within sight of a perhaps over eager Daniel Ricciardo who forced his way through on the last lap and effectively pushed Norris off the track and dropped him behind Kimi Räikkönen and Nico Hulkenberg, to eventually limp his stricken McLaren across the finish in the last points scoring position. His bad luck however took a positive turn when the stewards gave Ricciardo a 10 second penalty for overtaking both Norris and Kimi Räikkönen outside the track limits, demoting him to eleventh position in the final classification.
Lewis Hamilton said after the race that: “I’ve been racing a long, long time but this just never gets old. It’s always a challenge out there and I just love trying to find the edge, and really being on top of this machine. This is actually an awesome track to drive in the race, there’s some really technical areas. It may look easy from the outside, but it wasn’t easy at all, everything’s always on the edge. So, when I could, I was saving tyres, saving the engine, saving fuel. I had quite big blisters on my front tyres which I was a little worried about. But we got to the end and I couldn’t do it without this incredible team. I’m so proud of everyone and so proud to be part of this group of people. This has been the best start of the year, so we have got to enjoy it.”
Charles Leclerc managed to take third place to get his podium finish in the French Grand Prix whilst Sebastian Vettel had to settle for fifth after a frustrating qualifying where he started from seventh on the grid.
Leclerc said after the race that: “Overall, this weekend was pretty positive. I’m pleased I was able to fight for second place right at the end, even if I never had a real chance to attack Valtteri. I am satisfied because we managed to maximise the potential of the car.”
“It was about time, because after a few so-so weekends, everything went smoothly right from the start of free practice and then in qualifying and the race, where our strategy was perfect both in terms of the timing of the pit stop and our tyre management in the second part of the race.”
“I believe hard work always pays off and I feel we proved that this weekend. Now we go straight to Austria where I hope we can maintain this same good form.”
Vettel commented: “I had a pretty lonely race, apart from a bit of confusion at the start, given that the timing of the lights going out caught us a bit by surprise. It was fun fighting with the McLarens, first Norris then Carlos. The first stint went pretty well and that meant I could close the gap to Charles and Max. Then in the second one, I had a few more balance problems and I didn’t feel totally comfortable with the car.”
“I think today’s fifth place was the most we could have done, given that Charles, Max and me were all running at pretty much the same pace. At least getting the fastest race lap means I get an extra point.”
“We still need to understand why Friday was so complicated with some of the parts we brought here not working as we had hoped. Our car is not yet strong enough and it’s down to us to improve. We still don’t have the pace to beat Mercedes, but I know that everyone at Maranello is working with so much positive pressure – and passion.”
Haas F1 Team
The Haas team had a disappointing weekend here at the French Grand Prix, with Kevin Magnussen finishing in 17th place, having qualified 15th, while teammate Romain Grosjean was forced to retire with just six laps to go, having qualified 16th on the grid.
The team ended the weekend having dropped one position to ninth in the Constructors’ Championship with 16 points, just behind Toro Rosso but ahead of Williams.
Team Principal Guenther Steiner said after the race that: “Unfortunately this race weekend was the worst since we started the team. We need to try to find a way out of our issues. This is not where we want to be.”
The top ten finishers at the French Grand Prix were Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Charles LeClerc, Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz, Kimi Räikkönen, Nico Hulkenberg, Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly in the second Red Bull.
The next round of the championship is next weekend on Sunday June 30th as the teams head to the Red Bull Ring in Austria where Max Verstappen took the chequered flag last year.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Scuderia Ferrari Press Office, McLaren and Haas F1 Team
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