Lewis Hamilton delivered a masterclass in the FORMULA 1 PIRELLI GRAND PRIX DE FRANCE 2019. Having started from pole, the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport driver comfortably kept the lead at the start and then flew off into the distance. In the first half especially, his pace was untouchable for all, including team- mate Valtteri Bottas, who came home second. This was Hamilton’s sixth win of the year, the 79th of his career and the team’s 95th. The Englishman now has a 36 point lead over Bottas in the Drivers’ classification, while Mercedes leads Scuderia Ferrari by 140 in the Constructors’.
Having taken pole and the win, Hamilton might have hoped to claim the hat-trick by also setting the fastest race lap, but only after he had taken the chequered flag was he denied by Sebastian Vettel. The German was comfortably fifth and therefore had time to pit for a fresh set of Soft tyres to go for the additional point that comes with the fastest lap. Having been informed of this, Hamilton put the hammer down and set an incredible 1.32.764 on Hard tyres that had already done 39 laps and Vettel beat him on the very last lap by just 24 thousandths of a second.
Valtteri Bottas however was struggling with tyre degradation in the closing stages and he could see third placed Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari getting ever larger in his mirrors. Bottas managed to hold him off but only by under a second. This was Leclerc’s third F1 podium, the second in a row, coming at the end of a weekend in which he managed to get the most out of his car. His team-mate had a less successful time in France, with the fastest lap point offering only scant consolation. Vettel started from seventh and soon despatched the two McLaren drivers, but after that, he never seemed like being able to close on Max Verstappen in fourth spot.
Once again, it was a day of mixed fortunes for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing: Verstappen had something to smile about, but Pierre Gasly had a poor time of it in his home race. The Dutchman tried at the very first corner to take third spot off Leclerc, but once that didn’t pay off, he produced another mature performance to come home fourth, something of a habit now, given he has finished in that position in five races and four qualifying sessions out of the eight events this season. Gasly suffered as one of the few drivers to have to start on the Soft tyres. The Frenchman crossed the finish line in eleventh place, but two 5 second penalties for Daniel Ricciardo, promoted Gasly to tenth after the race. The other Frenchman, Romain Grosjean had an even worse time of it, as the only one of the 20 drivers not to see the chequered flag, retiring six laps from the end.
The French Grand Prix was particularly important for the home team, as Renault was also celebrating the 40th anniversary of its first Formula 1 win, with Jean-Pierre Jabouille twice demonstrating the RS10 with which he won the 1979 French Grand Prix at Dijon Prenois. However, today’s result probably did not live up to the expectations of the French firm’s senior management, nor indeed the French fans, of whom there were a total of 135,000 over the weekend from Thursday to Sunday. In the end, they left the track with just the four points collected by Nico Hulkenberg. Having taken the flag in seventh place, Daniel Ricciardo was later given two 5second penalties, the first for failing to rejoin the track safely, as he was trying to pass Lando Norris and the second for having exceeded the track limits and gaining an advantage when he was fighting Kimi Raikkonen in a tight scrap on the final lap. It dropped the Australian to eleventh on the result sheet.
Hulkenberg and Gasly were not the only ones to benefit from Ricciardo’s penalty, so too did Raikkonen and Norris, classified seventh and ninth. They both drove strong races, especially the McLaren driver. Norris produced a gritty drive in the early stages before struggling towards the end because of a loss of hydraulic fluid which meant he also lost power steering. McLaren’s great weekend saw Carlos Sainz finish a brilliant sixth, the first driver from outside the top three teams not to have been lapped. Raikkonen’s seventh place equals his best so far this season and ends a points drought for the team that dates back to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
FROM THE DRIVERS-
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.
It was a fairly quiet race in the end. The start was my best bet, but Lewis also had a good start, so the opportunity wasn't there. Lewis was very quick today; I was trying to keep up, but my front tyres were starting to fall into pieces, both on the Mediums and at the end on the Hard tyres towards the end as well. We were concerned with the blistering we saw in the last part of the race, so I had to back off a little bit. There was definitely a bit of margin left, but we wanted to be on the safe side and make it to the end. But ultimately, Lewis had the pace advantage today and kept the tyres in better shape, so it's something for me to have a look at and learn. I'm really proud of the work we've done as a team, scoring another 1-2 is a great result.
Started P13, finished P9*: “We made a good recovery today and it’s pleasing to be in the top ten again. Maybe it could have been a different race had we qualified slightly higher, but thirteenth to ninth is a strong effort. I was pushing all race, but I was stuck in traffic and this place is difficult for overtaking. I had pace in hand today, which shows on race day we’re strong. The last few laps were really fun; it was tight and exciting and I was happy to make up some places there. We’ve demonstrated that our race pace is there, but we have something to find on one-lap pace.”
Started P8, finished P7*: “It’s clearly disappointing to drop outside the points with a post-race penalty, especially at the team’s home race. The last lap was a lot of fun, we had a fight and I enjoyed it. I’d rather give it a go than not try at all, and I’m sure the French fans and the people at home liked watching. It’s a shame to be penalised for it, but we’ll aim to move on from that as quickly as possible. In terms of the race, I feel like I missed out a little bit at the start, especially after a really good launch off the line. I braked too early for turn one and that was too conservative looking back. That made the rest of the race hard work, but we kept it clean and smooth from there. There are still a lot of positives to take and we’ll be looking for an immediate response in Austria.”
“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.”
“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.”
“The race was a bit lonely at times but it wasn’t boring as I had Charles in sight which was good motivation to keep trying to match his lap times. You have to keep pushing yourself even if there aren’t cars that you are directly fighting. I always want to see how fast we can go and push as much as possible. In the second stint, we were looking quite good but with six or seven laps to go I ran out of rear grip and I couldn’t really rely on the rear tyres anymore. I think it took a bit too much out of my tyres trying to keep up with Charles early in the race but I’m pleased to be in front of one Ferrari and finish fourth on a track that doesn’t really suit us. The target is always to win but it was not possible here today and I got the most out of the package. We have made a small step this weekend but we still need to work on all elements to fight for victories.”
“It was a long, difficult day and I’m disappointed, especially being here in France. From qualifying, I have struggled for grip and it was the same in the race. At the moment I don’t have the answer but I’m sure we will analyse everything to understand exactly why we lacked pace. I tried to do everything I could inside the cockpit but I could not push the car as I was sliding a lot. I have never really felt the car like this and with Austria next, we will have to quickly work hard with the guys to come back and put everything together for the next race. Honda are pushing hard and for sure they are developing so this is a positive.”
French Grand Prix Final Classification
1st Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 53 1:24.31.198
2nd Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 53 +18.056
3rd Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari 53 +18.985
4th Max Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 53 +34.905
5th Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari 53 +62.796
6th Carlos Sainz McLaren F1 Team 53 +95.462
7th Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 52 +1 lap
8th Nico Hulkenberg Renault F1 Team 52 +1 lap
9th Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team 52 +1 lap
10th Pierre Gasly Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 52 +1 lap
11th Daniel Ricciardo* Renault F1 Team 52 +1 lap
12th Sergio Perez SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 52 +1 lap
13th Lance Stroll SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 52 +1 lap
14th Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 52 +1 lap
15th Alexander Albon Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 52 +1 lap
16th Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 52 +1 lap
17th Kevin Magnussen Rich Energy Haas F1 Team 52 +1 lap
18th Robert Kubica ROKiT Williams Racing 51 +2 laps
19th George Russell ROKiT Williams Racing 51 +2 laps
NC Romain Grosjean Rich Energy Haas F1 Team
1 L. Hamilton 187
2 V. Bottas 151
3 S. Vettel 111
4 M. Verstappen 100
5 C. Leclerc 87
6 P. Gasly 37
1.Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 338
2.Scuderia Ferrari 198
3.Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 137
4.McLaren F1 Team 40
5.Renault F1 Team 32
6.SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 19