Formula One: Lewis Hamilton wins French Grand Prix

25 June 2018, 01:27 | Kristine Mills

GETTYLewis Hamilton has won just two of seven races so far this season

Lewis Hamilton

But his championship rival Sebastian Vettel made an error on the opening lap that forced him nearly to the back of the field and he could manage only fifth.

"I don't feel that he's particularly made more mistakes", said Hamilton.

By lap 23, Hamilton was in command ahead of Verstappen by six seconds with Ricciardo, Raikkonen and a charging Vettel, back up to fifth, leading the chase. Kimi Raikkonen had a poor final qualifying and ended up sixth.

"We have all pulled together and done a great job in putting the auto where we need it, for both Valtteri and I", Hamilton said. "It's a attractive Sunday".

Other than Hamilton, the undoubted star of qualifying was Sauber's Charles Leclerc, who put his auto where it has no right to be, going through to final qualifying for the first time in his career.

Hamilton now leads the World Championship by 14 points ahead of next weekend's race in Austria.

Mercedes introduced their upgraded spec 2.1 engine for the French GP and it clearly made a difference as Ferrari were unable to close the gap on the leaders despite the Italian team being known to turn up their engines for the final part of qualifying just like their rivals. Mercedes had dominated practice and locked out the front row in qualifying.

Verstappen was credited by Red Bull team principal Christian Horner with a slightly modified approach in the previous race in Canada, where Verstappen finished third.

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The start featured the drama many expected as Vettel was slow to brake and clipped Botta at the first corner, causing a major collision and the safety vehicle to come out.

After moaning about Vettel earlier in the race, Alonso was on the radio again.

Vettel, at the back after a pit stop to fix the front wing damaged in the crash with Bottas made light work of the backmarkers, starting with a light tap as he passed Fernando Alonso's McLaren at Turn Three at the re-start, which nudged the Spaniard into a spin.

The German went into the back of Hamilton's team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, and was given a five-second penalty by the stewards. He was into the points in 10th, passing Nico Hulkenberg on lap 12 but was already 24 seconds back from Hamilton. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +7.090s 3.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo has won two races this season and needs to start adding to that tally soon to have any chance to stay in contention for the drivers' championship.

A better launch on his grippier Ultrasoft tyres allowed the Ferrari man to get alongside the two Mercedes' on the run to the first corner.

It did nothing to slow him and as soon as Bottas had gone fastest, Hamilton cut his time by half a second with a scorching lap.

Fernando Alonso said his 16th-place grid position at the French Grand Prix reflects the true performance of the McLaren this weekend and took solace from the fact he beat teammate Stoffel Vandoorne by 0.186s on Sturday.

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