Lewis Hamilton avoids chaotic race start to retake championship lead in France
By: S. Harding, Xiro Xone News June 24, 2018 Updated: 1:29 PM PT
LE CASTELLET, France — With thousands in attendance for the return of the French Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton takes his 65th career victory to retake his lead in the driver’s championship.
Hamilton also takes his first French Grand Prix win and his 26th win at a different Grand Prix meaning he has won at every venue on the 2018 Formula One calendar.
When you’re constructive and criticise yourself, approach a challenge with new methods and a new-found determination, it’s a great feeling to then get the result,” said Hamilton after taking his 44th win with Mercedes.
It has been a special weekend for the sport, filled with events and celebrations such as the appearance of Aseel Al-Hamad, the first female member of the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation and a representative of Saudi Arabia on the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission. Al-Hamad took a lap around the Le Castellet circuit to celebrate the first day of women being allowed to drive in her home country.
Things got off to a chaotic start for the silver arrows when Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel made heavy contact at Turn 1. Hamilton managed to avoid the drama, but his teammate was not so lucky. The Finnish driver’s car was sent spinning while Vettel received damage to his front wing, triggering a safety car.
Max Verstappen finished second by managing to avoid the first turn chaos and take his third podium of the season for Red Bull Racing.
Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen finished third and with the 95th podium of his career. Daniel Ricciardo took fourth in the second Red Bull. Ricciardo was holding third but ran into trouble when the team discovered portions of his front wing had broken off causing him to lose a considerable amount of downforce. This left him vulnerable to Raikkonen who was on newer tire and was able hunt down the Australian driver.
After Vettel’s collision he was hit with a five second time penalty for causing a collision. In the hopes of making a one-stop strategy, Vettel started on a charge up the field after making repairs to his front wing and changing onto the soft tires. However, during lap 39, the German driver began to fall behind before he had no choice but to relinquish his position to teammate Kimi Raikkonen allowing Raikkonen to chase after Daniel Ricciardo.
Vettel would make a second pitstop switching to the supersoft tire leaving him to finish fifth and trail the driver’s championship by 14pts.
Kevin Magnussen scored his second-best finish of the season for Haas since earlier this year at Barcelona finishing sixth. He was followed by Valtteri Bottas, who managed to make his way back after suffering damage to his floor from his collision with Vettel at Turn 1. Bottas was also held up during his pitstop. This caused him to end the day in seventh.
Carlos Sainz hit trouble during the closing laps with an MGU-K failure, causing him to lose two positions and finish eighth. Teammate Nico Hulkenberg helped make it a double point scoring finish for the team at their home race by finishing ninth.
Among many of the special guest in attendance Prince Albert of Monaco managed to see fellow countryman Charles Leclerc take his fourth scoring finish of the season in tenth.
Romain Grosjean, who wasn’t able to escape the first lap carnage, finished 11th after receiving a five second time penalty for causing a collision after contact with Force India’s Esteban Ocon. The French driver’s woes continued when he made heavy contact with fellow countryman Pierre Gasly eliminating both drivers from their home race.
McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne finished 12th followed by Marcus Ericsson taking 13th in the second Sauber. Brendon Hartley, who was the only Toro Rosso to finish the French Grand Prix, ended the day in 14th.
Williams’ driver Sergey Sirotkin finished 15th but was hit with a five second time penalty for driving too slow behind the safety car. Recently crowned 24 hour of Le Mans winner Fernando Alonso was hoping to carry his milestone victory into the race weekend, but the McLaren driver was plagued with technical issues leaving him to manage 16th.
Lance Stroll finished out the order of Sunday’s race in 17th but not before he suffered a tire puncture as he was entering Turn 11. This triggered a virtual safety car (VSC) with three laps remaining causing the race to finish under a yellow flag.
With one of three races completed in Formula One’s first ever triple header, the championship continues to ebb and flow as we head off to Spielberg for the Austrian Grand Prix next weekend.