Race Report: Hamilton dominates French GP; takes title lead

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Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

Mercedes may have paid a price for delaying their spec 2 power unit in Canada but we knew that when it did come, it would once again raise the performance bar. Ferrari’s new engine in Canada may have been faster than the Spec 1 Mercedes but in France, it didn’t have an answer as Lewis Hamilton to the victory at the Paul Ricard Circuit for the French Grand Prix.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A race that many believed would be boring offered some first lap drama with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel tangling with Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas at the first turn on lap 1. A 5s penalty left Vettel off the podium and now 10 points down in the driver’s championship while his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, finished in third behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.

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Win

A big win for Mercedes, their spec 2 engine and Lewis Hamilton who took over the championship lead from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. His 44th win in car number 44 and the first French GP win for Lewis. Lewis controlled the entire weekend and race and managed his race perfectly.

A win for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who finished second and drove a lonely race for a podium finish. He lacked the pace to challenge Hamilton but held off his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, and even managed to cover the charging Vettel with a perfectly timed pit stop on the 26th lap.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

Kimi Raikkonen managed a podium finish and drove a good race passing his teammate late and then picking off a struggling Daniel Ricciardo. He never had the pace to challenge Verstappen but perhaps his long run strategy prevented him from being more aggressive than he was.

Another win for Sauber’s Charles Leclerc who managed to finish 10th on the lead lap converting his terrific qualifying effort into a tangible call for a seat at Ferrari in 2019.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A big win for Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen who gained several spots at the start having ran wide to avoid the carnage but was head’s up enough to cede those positions and then fight his way back to a very respectable 6th place besting the Renault’s for “best of the rest”.

A big win for the French fans who, despite a miserable traffic situation, braved the queue and turned out in droves.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

Fail

A fail for Sebastian Vettel who lost the lead in the championship on lap 1, turn 1 after hitting Valtteri Bottas. The #5 Ferrari got a great start but was boxed in by two Mercedes cars and while Bottas left room at turn 1, Vettel lost braking and hit the Finn causing a puncture for Bottas and a damaged front wing for himself. If there’s an upside for the incident, it was adding some spice to the race that was predicted to be boring as Vettel scythed his way back through the field making pass after pass to in a very good recovery drive.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A fail for McLaren who couldn’t get either car in the points leaving Fernando Alonso to radio about throwing in the towel. Vandoorne managed to beat Alonso but only because McLaren thought it would be fun to try and give Alonso the fastest lap of the race and pitted him late. The gambit failed and it makes you wonder if they are racing or just trying to appease Alonso these days. As I said on the last podcast, the Alonso brand seems to have become bigger than the McLaren brand at this point and that’s a serious, serious issue for Woking.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A fail for Williams who finished last with Sergey Sirotkin in 15th and Lance Stroll DNF due to an exploding front left tire near the end of the race. Such a shame to see Williams and McLaren fighting for the most miserable season award. All the talk seems to be about sacking Eric Boullier at McLaren but no one is talking about sacking Claire Williams and her team is, arguably, in worse shape given their power unit.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A massive fail for Force India who had a dual DNF race with Ocon being taken out on turn 1, lap 1 and Perez having to retire due to engine trouble. Both cars had new Mercedes engine and unlike the works team, they couldn’t capitalize on that at all.

WTH

A bit of a WTH for Renault who seemed mired in the middle this weekend. Sainz had a loss of power late in the race and lost two places denying him the 6th place Magnussen enjoyed. Hulkenberg never could mount a serious challenge for his coveted 7th place finishing norm and both Renault’s were beaten by Haas F1.

A WTH for Romain Grosjean…no, seriously, WTH? The race stewards looked at three sperate incidents from the Haas F1 driver and Ocon squarely felt he was to blame for the first lap carnage between all three Frenchmen. Regardless, it is very odd that the three French drivers, Grosjean, Ocon and Gasly, all took each other out on lap 1 from their home grand prix…WTH?

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A bit of a WTH as there was very little degradation (klag) on the track and it makes you wonder if Pirelli brought soft enough compounds to the Paul Ricard circuit…you know, being all about HD tires and stuff.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

French GP Results:

Pos Driver Car Laps Gap
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 53 1h30m11.385s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 53 7.090s
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 53 25.888s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 53 34.736s
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 53 1m01.935s
6 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 53 1m19.364s
7 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53 1m20.632s
8 Carlos Sainz Renault 53 1m27.184s
9 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 53 1m31.989s
10 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 53 1m33.873s
11 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 52 1 Lap
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 52 1 Lap
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 52 1 Lap
14 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 52 1 Lap
15 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 52 1 Lap
16 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 50 3 Laps
17 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 48 Tyre
Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 27 Power Unit
Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 0 Collision
Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 0 Collision

Driver’s Championship

Pos Driver Points
1 Lewis Hamilton 145
2 Sebastian Vettel 131
3 Daniel Ricciardo 96
4 Valtteri Bottas 92
5 Kimi Raikkonen 83
6 Max Verstappen 68
7 Nico Hulkenberg 34
8 Fernando Alonso 32
9 Carlos Sainz 28
10 Kevin Magnussen 27
11 Pierre Gasly 18
12 Sergio Perez 17
13 Esteban Ocon 11
14 Charles Leclerc 11
15 Stoffel Vandoorne 8
16 Lance Stroll 4
17 Marcus Ericsson 2
18 Brendon Hartley 1
19 Romain Grosjean 0
20 Sergey Sirotkin 0

Constructor’s Championship

Pos Constructor Points
1 Mercedes 237
2 Ferrari 214
3 Red Bull/Renault 164
4 Renault 62
5 McLaren/Renault 40
6 Force India/Mercedes 28
7 Haas/Ferrari 27
8 Toro Rosso/Honda 19
9 Sauber/Ferrari 13
10 Williams/Mercedes 4
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall Race
An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.

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Fast Freddy

Surely a big loss for Vettel, but fun to watch him turn up the wick and go thru the field. I feel bad for Alonso, makes me wonder why McLaren pays him so much to keep him around. Is he really helping the team? With baseball, teams let their star players go on as they rebuild, which McLaren should be doing.

jtr
Member
jtr

I think it’s more like a baseball team that keeps around a star player during a rebuild just to try to keep the fans from totally giving up hope. Plus, Alonzo is a big asset when it comes to improving the car; he has the experience to pass a lot of information about car performance onto the team. We’ve seen for Williams this season how hard it is to improve the car when you have two bad drivers who can’t help much with the tuning process. Plus, you need a certain quality of driver just to be able to reliably… Read more »

B52RockLobster
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B52RockLobster

Now we get to see why having RAI qualify better is crucial. The Mercedes boxed in VET as much as they could at the start (the on-board from VES was hilarious looking). If Kimi was in 4th instead, he could take advantage of situations like that and help Ferrari maximize the points.

Kimi lost a place again on lap 1, but his drive turned out quite well. However, if it wasn’t for VET, BOT, and RIC having issues, he would have been down in 5th or 6th again.

B52RockLobster
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B52RockLobster

Here is the screenshot from Verstappens on-board.

VER_MercedesMug.PNG
Fabio
Member
Fabio

Agree about Kimi, how long are they going to make excuses for him. Surely it’s time to get someone who is competitive.

Member

If Kimi was more competitive, Vettel won’t be so comfortable all the time. He might have to out qualify his teammate by a tenth or a hundredth of a tenth every now and then. Pick your poison. As I’ve said before, Keeping Vettel fat and happy plays right into our hands ;)

Fabio
Member
Fabio

If Kimi (or another driver) was more competitive, it might push Seb even more and he would drive even better. Just look at RBR, DR has had to push himself more since having Max as a teammate.

Member

You nailed it. Vettel needs some hungry young cat nipping at his heels if he wants to ascend to the next level. The Red Bull drivers are always pushing each other. Bottas ain’t making life easy for Hamilton. He is right there. The Renault pair are pushing each other. Force India pair are pushing each other. The HAAS drivers used to be neck and neck until Grosjean regressed. I can see Ferrari saying enough to the Vettel centric approach as he is continuing to throw points away.

B52RockLobster
Guest
B52RockLobster

I’m not sure I agree – it seems hard to believe that the competition HAM presents isn’t enough to push VET and RAI to do their best.

My only point is that RAI seems to constantly choke in Qualifying and it’s hurting the team’s, and VET’s title chances

jtr
Member
jtr

Agreed, it’s not like these guys aren’t trying their best to win the race just because they don’t have a top driver for a teammate. These are fiercely competitive racing drivers, I don’t think motivation is an issue. And besides, I can’t really imagine that Hamilton is having nightmares of Bottas taking the top Mercedes seat from him. Everybody (Bottas included) knows that Bottas is here to play wingman, he’s just doing a better job of it than Kimi this season.

EDIT: formatting doesn’t make it clear, I’m replying to and agreeing with RockLobster above.

Member

You missed one on WTH, NC. Those oversized gorilla statues on the podium and the ones used as trophies to the drivers. I know Pirelli was the title sponsor of the race but that doesn’t explain the gorillas.

Member

Todd, you missed a major WTH: The Tifossi voting Vettel driver of the day! There’s a mob you should be worried about. Just goes to show how big a crowd they are…and not very objective either. Is it any wonder, from a business perspective, why Vettel and Ferrari are always so protected? I don’t agree, but I understand why its done. It’s good for business. That 5sec penalty was a yoke!

subcritical71
Member
subcritical71

Two points on the race. First, was it just me or did everyone just succumb to the DRS pass and let people through? I only remember two DRS passes where the car being passed even took a defensive line into the corner. Some would have kept their position at least another lap had they taken a more defensive approach. Second, VER made it through a race without incident and VET threw away more points on a desperate move (and then clobbered Grosjean off the track a few turns later – for which Grosjean was investigated?!$?). He would have clearly passed… Read more »

Schumie Toronto
Member
Schumie Toronto

I can’t believe the uproar over Vettel’s 5 sec. penalty. He made a MISTAKE in making the split-second decision to brake a little bi too late and like he said, he had nowhere to go! Didn’t Hamilton lose a bit of wing on Verstappen’s rear tire several races ago? It’s an easy thing to do. Give me a break! He paid the price, dropping to last place AND then with the 5 second penalty! But some people (Hamilton included) would have him burned at the stake FFS!

Member

That turned out to be an interesting race to watch. Ver-crash-en went a complete weekend without making contact with anyone – amazing! Kimi making some serious passes. So nice to see him going forwards for a change. Vettel putting together a great recovery drive after that first corner blunder. Bottas with a not quite as effective recovery drive after being clipped – floor damage I guess. Grosjean brilliantly setting things in train to take out his two French rivals on lap one., He’s probably fantastic at snooker too. Some delightful close racing all through the midfield, it was great to… Read more »