The French Formula 1 Grand Prix will not rank among the sport’s classic races, with Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes-AMG delivering another cake-walk as the Briton marches towards a seemingly inevitable sixth Drivers’ Championship title.
It was the Briton’s sixth victory in the eight races of the season to-date, all won by the Silver Arrows whose run of successive wins stretches back to last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix. His teammate Valtteri Bottas once again could not challenge him, and neither could the rest of the field with Scuderia Ferrari barely featuring as Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel finished third and fifth respectively, split by Max Verstappen’s Red Bull Racing Honda.
Hamilton’s clinical run to victory, where he led every lap from the start, did not come close to the level of excitement on-track action delivered at the same circuit by the feeder Formula 3 and Formula 2 championships. That both are single-spec series is a relevant point, but Mercedes-AMG’s continued dominance is hardly its fault and simply serves to reflect that its rivals need to bridge the cap.
His 18-second victory over Bottas also served to highlight his own momentum at this stage of the season where he typically launches into another gear. Teammate Bottas, in identical machinery, was no match after the opening lap and only just hung on to second place from a fast-closing Leclerc as he battled with an engine misfire. The gap between the Mercedes stablemates has now stretched to 36 points, but Bottas will expect to be able to claw some of the deficit back at next weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix where he is typically strong.
Leclerc kept Bottas in sight for much of the race and ran a strong stint in its final fifteen laps to close down Bottas and get within DRS range. He couldn’t quite get close enough to attempt a genuine pass, but it gave the strong patriotic crowd someone to cheer for given the field’s two local drivers, Pierre Gasly and Romain Grosjean, both had dreadful races on home soil.
Over at Red Bull Racing, Max Verstappen finished a rather lonely fourth, battling with throttle pick-up and overheating tyres.
Behind him finished Sebastian Vettel, who managed to pass the two McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. early on but simply didn’t have the pace to make any further in-roads. He made a late second pit stop to bolt on Soft tyres and claim the bonus point for fastest lap, denying Hamilton a grand chelem of pole, victory with every lap led, and the fastest lap. The German now sits 76 points behind Hamilton in what is all but a two-horse, all-silver battle for the 2019 title.
Sainz finished sixth for McLaren with teammate Norris ninth, but the team should have been celebrating a better result were it not for the latter – who ran seventh and was harrying the Spaniard for much of the race – developing a hydraulics leak that slowly worsened his differential, gearbox and steering.
The Briton bravely hung on but was caught by a chasing trio comprising the two Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg, and the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Räikkönen.
On the final lap Ricciardo launch his attack into the Mistral Chicane, but drifted wide over the kerbs and forced Norris off-track at the exit. Räikkönen capitalised by passing them both at the exit of the chicane before Ricciardo counter-attacked, running outside the track limits along the Mistral Straight before passing the Finn into Signes to claim seventh.
With teammate Hülkenberg crossing the line in ninth, it looked to be a solid double-points finish for the Renault team at its home event where it hoped a major upgrade package could reignite its quest to finish fourth in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
The FIA Stewards investigated the incident and duly handed Ricciardo two five-second penalties – one for dangerously rejoining the circuit and forcing Norris to take avoiding action, and the other for gaining an advantage by leaving the circuit with his pass on Räikkönen.
Ricciardo is a racer in the truest sense of the word, but the rules are clear and the penalty was correctly enforced. His sanction promoted Räikkönen to seventh, Hülkenberg eighth, Norris ninth and the second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly – who had an utterly anonymous race – into tenth.
|FORMULA 1 PIRELLI GRAND PRIX DU FRANCE 2019 – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (53 LAPS)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||53||1:24:31.198||25|
|2.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||78||+ 18.056||18|
|3.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||16||+ 18.985||15|
|4.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||78||+ 34.905||12|
|5.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||78||+ 1:02.796||11|
|6.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||69||+ 1:35.462||8|
|7.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||52||1 lap behind||6|
|8.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||52||1 lap behind||4|
|9.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||52||1 lap behind||2|
|10.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||52||1 lap behind||1|
|11.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||52||1 lap behind|
|12.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||52||1 lap behind|
|13.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||52||1 lap behind|
|14.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||52||1 lap behind|
|15.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||52||1 lap behind|
|16.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||52||1 lap behind|
|17.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||52||1 lap behind|
|18.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||51||2 laps behind|
|19.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||51||2 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||44||Mechanical|
Points are awarded to the top 10 classified finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 scale.
Sebastian Vettel is awarded an additional 1 championship point for posting the fastest lap of the race by a points’ finisher.
- Daniel Ricciardo – who was provisionally classified P7 – was issued a 5-second time penalty for rejoining the circuit in an unsafe manner which forced Lando Norris to take evasive action to avoid a collision, and a further 5-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
Images via Michael Potts Photography
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