[F1 2019 NEWS FEATURE] FRENCH GRAND PRIX: RACE REVIEW

Formula 1 news story about [F1 2019 NEWS FEATURE] FRENCH GRAND PRIX: RACE REVIEW

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has stormed to a second-straight French Grand Prix win, his fourth-straight victory and sixth of the season, the 5-time F1 World Champion in a league of his own - leading every lap, to extend his lead in the standings to 36-points over teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton got a great start from pole, and never looked back - finishing a dominant 18-seconds ahead of his Finnish teammate, for the Mercedes’ squad’s 50th one-two finish in Formula 1.

“I’ve been racing a long, long time but this never gets old. It’s always such a challenge out there, and I love that trying to find the edge, and bridging the gap and being on top of the machine,” Hamilton said.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc closed out the podium, and run Bottas ragged at the end - less than a second between them as they crossed the line after 53 laps. Leclerc’s teammate Sebastian Vettel finished fifth, after starting seventh. The 4-time F1 World Champion earned the fastest lap on the final tour, after a free pit stop to fit the soft tyres. But his championship campaign looks over for 2019.

There’s now just a week’s break until the next race, held on back-to-back weekends in Austria at the Red Bull Ring.

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 53 1:24:31.198 25
2 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53 +18.056s 18
3 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 53 +18.985s 15
4 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 53 +34.905s 12
5 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 53 +62.796s 11
6 55 Carlos Sainz McLaren Renault 53 +95.462s 8

Here’s how the 2019 FORMULA 1 FRENCH GRAND PRIX played-out lap-by-lap:

Build Up:
There’s plenty of excitement ahead of the 60th edition of the Formula 1 World Championship French Grand Prix, and the focus is on Mercedes - which has locked out the front row for a record 63rd time. 5-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton on pole for the 86th time, his 60th with Mercedes (more than any driver with a single team). Valtteri Bottas is alongside, and must get ahead of his champion teammate for a chance to fight for the title given the 29-point gap in the standings. It’s going to be a drag race down to turn one, no doubt about it, with 386-metres between the pole slot and the apex of the first corner.

Behind the two Silver Arrows, it’s two very hungry, young racers - in Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (who is lead Prancing Horse, with Sebastian Vettel languishing down in seventh - the 4-time F1 World Champion doing just a single run in Q3 after aborting his first lap), and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen in fourth. Both looking to split the Mercedes’ drivers down to Turn 1, for a chance at a strong result… both wanting to notch their first win of 2019, Leclerc his maiden victory.

On the third row, it’s a McLaren lockout - the British team securing its best qualifying slot of the season, the first time that the team has had two drivers in the top-six since Italy 2014, with Lando Norris in fifth, Carlos Sainz sixth. Both will be desperate to retain those places for the squad’s second double points finish of 2019. In eighth, it’s Daniel Ricciardo - who would love a top result at Renault’s home race. Red Bull Racing’s Pierre Gasly starts ninth, with the Frenchman losing confidence and starting down the order for his home race - the energy drinks manufacturer disappointed with his performance to date. Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi closes out the top-10.

At the back of the grid, it’s Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Williams’ George Russell - both of whom have both taken grid penalties for multiple power unit element changes. Kvyat expected to move through the grid, his teammate Alexander Albon starting from 11th - while Williams remains locked in its own battle down the back. The team looking forward to its mid-season upgrade, which will be important in terms of a performance boost. Its first of 2019.

It’s a warm day at Paul Ricard, with air temperature 26 degrees Celsius - and track temperature of 54 degrees. Strategy-wise, it’s a one stop with the fastest way through the race being a start on the medium tyres and stopping between laps 13-23, switching onto the hards. Those unlucky enough to start on the “gooey” softs, will stop between laps 11 and 20 - before changing over to the hard compound. A pit stop will take a driver 25-seconds under green flag conditions, given the longer pit lane for this year, with last year’s race seeing the safety car emerge after the turn one melee.

Formation Lap:
The tyre to be to start the race is the medium, with the soft set to last for less than 10 laps - so any drivers starting on the red-marked rubber needs to make the most of the start. The top-eight are all on mediums, as are Alexander Albon (P11), Sergio Perez (P14), Kevin Magnussen (P15), Kubica (P18) and Russell (P20). Pierre Gasly (P9) and Antonio Giovinazzi (P10) are the only ones on the softs. Kimi Raikkonen (P12), Nico Hulkenberg (P13), Romain Grosjean (P16), Lance Stroll (P17) and Daniil Kvyat (P19) are on the hards.

Lap 1:
Polesitter Hamilton gets a great start, Bottas is able to keep his second - as Leclerc keeps Verstappen behind. Perez goes off track at Turn 4. Sainz has passed Norris for P5, and is trying on Verstappen into the Turn 8 chicane.

Lap 2:
Hamilton leads Bottas by 1-second. 1.3 seconds back to Leclerc in P3. Vettel is still in seventh, where he started the race. Replays show Hamilton getting crossed up into Turn 3 at the start.

Lap 3:
Hamilton leads Bottas by 1.3 seconds, as Verstappen sets the fastest lap - a 1:37.252. He’s 3-seconds ahead of Sainz now in P4. Norris in P6 is under fire from Vettel. Verstappen says he’s not pulling out of the corners well. Potential power unit concerns there.

Lap 4:
DRS enabled. Hamilton up front sets the fastest lap, a 1:36.751. He’s now 1.6 seconds up on Bottas. Leclerc is 1.5 seconds behind the Finn. Vettel in P7 is 11-seconds behind the leader, so the field is spreading out.

Lap 5:
Another fastest lap for Hamilton, a 1:36.290. But Bottas is doing lap times within a tenth, he’s remaining 1.6 seconds behind. Ricciardo in P10 is less than a second behind Giovinazzi. Verstappen saying his power unit is normal again, so crisis averted there. Vettel passes Norris for P6 into the Turn 8 chicane. Norris comes back at Signes, but can’t make it work.

Lap 6:
Another fastest lap for Hamilton, a 1:35.979. Almost three tenths faster than Bottas on that last lap, 2-seconds now the gap between them. Ricciardo passes Giovinazzi for P9 into the chicane. Giovinazzi falling away, as Raikkonen passes him.

Lap 7:
Hamilton so fast, another fastest lap, a 1:35.945. He’s 2.2 seconds ahead of Bottas, as his engineers tweak engine settings. Vettel passes Sainz for fifth into Turn 8 chicane, with Verstappen 8.5 seconds ahead.

Lap 8:
Giovinazzi has dropped down to P12, behind Hulkenberg, and pitted. His red soft tyres fading, he goes onto the hards. He’s the first driver to pit. Leclerc is told he’s onto Plan A, a likely one stop, so keep Verstappen behind.

Lap 9:
Hamilton flying up front, another fastest lap - a 1:35.928 - he’s 2.3 seconds ahead of Bottas, who is doing similar lap times. Kvyat passes Grosjean at the Turn 8 chicane for P16.

Lap 10:
Perez given a 5-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:35.741. He’s 2.6 seconds up on Bottas. Top-10 now covered by 28-seconds. Gasly in P8 is the only driver on the softs now, with Giovinazzi at the back of the field in P20.

Lap 11:
Hamilton continues his run of fastest laps, a 1:35.708. Magnussen in P13 is holding a train of cars behind him - in Stroll, Albon, Kvyat and Grosjean.

Lap 12:
Bottas has responded with his own fastest lap, a 1:35.448 - he’s 2.5 seconds behind Hamilton. And on the Brit’s pace. He’s keeping in touch. Leclerc and Vettel the only other drivers in the 1:35s.

Lap 13:
Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:35.443 - he’s in fifth place, 6.9 seconds behind Verstappen - six tenths faster than the Dutchman on that last lap. Ricciardo in P9 is chasing down Gasly, who’s still on the softs.

Lap 14:
Hamilton stamps his authority on the race again with another fastest lap, a 1:35.339. The Mercedes pair doing similar lap times, 1:35.3s. Ferraris half a second slower. Hamilton says something is broken in his seat, will this become an issue? Ricciardo in P9 closing in on Gasly, who says he needs more power to protect.

Lap 15:
Hamilton stretching his legs, another fastest lap - a 1:34.811. Two tenths faster than Bottas, with 3-seconds the gap between the Silver Arrows. Replays show Albon passing Magnussen at the chicane, the Dane struggling.

Lap 16:
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:34.803… the Brit just on a charge - almost four tenths faster than Bottas on that last lap, 3.7 seconds the gap. Kvyas has passed Magnussen and is up to P15.

Lap 17:
Hamilton leads Bottas by 3.9 seconds. Leclerc in P3 is 6-seconds behind. Then it’s Verstappen, Vettel, Sainz, Norris, Gasly. Ricciardo pits from P9 - he’s onto the hards. A 3.5 second stop, issue with the left front. Can he undercut Gasly? Both Williams cars are now fighting.

Lap 18:
Hamilton 4.8 seconds ahead of Bottas. Gasly pits to cover off the undercut threat from Ricciardo. He’s onto the hards, and it’s a 2.1 second stop - and he stays ahead of Ricciardo as he comes out in P15.

Lap 19:
Ricciardo passes Gasly for P15, down the back straight, around the outside with DRS. Norris and Perez pit, the Mexican for his penalty as well. Up front Hamilton leads Bottas by 5.2 seconds.

Lap 20:
Sainz pits from P6, and he gets out ahead of Norris. Hamilton leads Bottas by 6-seconds.

Lap 21:
Verstappen pits from P4. He’s onto the softs, 2.4 second stop - with Vettel doing the opposite, to overcut. Vettel told he will go as long as possible. “I’m with you,” he says.

Lap 22:
Leclerc pits from P3. Onto the hards, 2.7 second stop there. He returns in P4, 7-seconds ahead of Verstappen. Verstappen has an issue with his throttle pedal.

Lap 23:
Hamilton leads Bottas by 8.1 seconds, then it’s Vettel - who is yet to stop - 15-seconds behind in P3, followed by Leclerc in P4, 14.6 seconds adrift.

Lap 24:
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:34.683 - as Bottas pits. He’s onto the hards. 2.9 second stop. The Finn comes out in P3 behind Vettel, who is yet to stop. Hamilton told to box.

Lap 25:
Hamilton pits from the lead. He’s onto the hards, 2.2 second stop. And he remains in the lead, with Vettel just 1.3 seconds behind and yet to stop. Replays showing Vettel locking up, his medium tyres looking a bit tired. Vettel wants to pit.

Lap 26:
Vettel pits from P2, he’s onto the softs - and it’s a 2.2 second stop. He’s dropped down to P5. So the top five is Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Verstappen and Vettel. Hulkenberg in P7 is a second behind Raikkonen.

Lap 27:
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:34.581. He’s 11-seconds ahead of Bottas, Leclerc 2.8 seconds behind in P3. Verstappen in P4 has Vettel 5.2 seconds behind him.

Lap 28:
Another fastest lap for Hamilton, a 1:34.504 - he’s 12-secs ahead of Bottas. Ricciardo passes Grosjean for P12 into the turn eight chicane. Gasly is in P14, 10 places behind his teammate.

Lap 29:
Bottas sets the fastest lap, responding with a 1:34.250. The two Mercedes drivers are the only ones in the low 1:34s.

Lap 30:
Ricciardo’s pass on Grosjean under investigation, for putting all four wheels off the track.

Lap 31:
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:34.026. The top-five are all in the 1:34s. Hulkenberg in P7 is chasing down Raikkonen, less than a second between them.

Lap 32:
Hamilton again stretching his legs out front, setting the fastest lap - a 1:34.003 - he’s 12.2 seconds ahead of Bottas. Raikkonen pits, releasing Hulkenberg to take P6 - the German racer yet to pit.

Lap 33:
Ricciardo passes Kvyat for P10 into the chicane for the final point. Kvyat pits from P11. Order is Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Verstappen, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Stroll, Sainz, Norris and Ricciardo closes out the top-10.

Lap 34:
Only the top-14 are on the lead lap. Hamilton leads Bottas by 12.3 seconds. No drivers within one second of each other.

Lap 35:
Hulkenberg pits, chance to get ahead of Raikkonen in the pits. He’s onto the mediums, 3.3 second stop - and comes out behind Raikkonen. That did not work out for him.

Lap 36:
Hamilton leads Bottas by 11.8 seconds. Gasly in P12 is chasing down Hulkenberg now, less than a second the gap.

Lap 37:
Sainz has been told to pick up the pace, with Norris behind him. Norris in P6 is the only one who hasn’t pitted. No further action on Ricciardo/Grosjean pass.

Lap 38:
Norris complaining he’s stuck behind Sainz.

Lap 39:
15 laps to go. Hamilton leads Bottas by 12.6 seconds. Leclerc looks comfortable for the final podium place.

Lap 40:
Bottas told there’s blistering on front tyres, but won’t be an issue. He’s now 13-seconds behind Hamilton. Norris in P8 cannot use DRS, even if it’s available. Stroll pits from sixth place, he’s going down the order.

Lap 41:
Leclerc sets a new fastest lap, a 1:33.828 - a second faster than Hamilton.

Lap 42:
Hamilton responds with the fastest lap, despite graining tyres - a 1:33.724. The top-10 are the only ones on the lead lap now.

Lap 43:
Another fastest lap for Hamilton, a 1:33.720 - he’s now 13-seconds ahead of Bottas. Norris complaining of really aggressive upshifts, likely hydraulic issue. Ricciardo is just 3.2 seconds behind him now.

Lap 44:
Stroll in P13 is chasing down Perez, 4.8 seconds the gap. Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:33.586.

Lap 45:
Hamilton told Vettel has a free stop at the end and will go for the fastest lap. Kvyat racing his teammate Albon for P14, the pair going wheel-to-wheel.

Lap 46:
Hamilton leads Bottas by 12.4 seconds. Norris told his car will become unstable and steering will become heavier, and to do the best he can. Perez in P12 is chasing Gasly, the gap just 1.4 seconds.

Lap 47:
Grosjean told he needs to retire the car, and he does - and becomes the only retirement for the race. Hamilton now leads Bottas by 14.3 seconds. Did Bottas go off track?

Lap 48:
Hamilton 14.7 seconds ahead of Bottas. Norris is 1.7 seconds ahead of Ricciardo, with an ailing car. Just the top-eight are on the lead lap now.

Lap 49:
Hulkenberg tries to pass Raikkonen for P9 into Turn 1, but can’t get close enough. Kvyat passes Albon for P14 into the chicane at Turn 8. Hamilton told that Norris ahead who he’s about to lap is suffering hydraulic issues.

Lap 50:
Hamilton leads Bottas by 15.8 seconds. Bollard is rolling on the track, will this become an issue? Virtual Safety Car deployed, and then stood down when bollard collected. Bollard was initially hit by Albon.

Lap 51:
Verstappen says he’s struggling with tyres, Vettel is just 3.9 seconds behind the Dutchman.

Lap 52:
Hamilton 16.5 seconds ahead of Bottas. Vettel pits for his free stop to go for the fastest lap. He goes onto the softs, 2.9 second stop. Ricciardo all over the back of Norris now, and looking menacing. Norris twitching through the corners.

Lap 53 - FINAL LAP:
Hamilton cruising, 16.7 seconds ahead of Bottas. Norris is still keeping Ricciardo behind. Leclerc all over the back of Bottas for second place, less than a second the gap. Ricciardo has passed Norris, who has dropped down to P10. Hamilton wins the French Grand Prix. Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:32.740. Ricciardo is under investigation for his pass on Norris, and receives a double penalty - dropping him down to 11th.

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 53 1:24:31.198 25
2 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53 +18.056s 18
3 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 53 +18.985s 15
4 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 53 +34.905s 12
5 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 53 +62.796s 11
6 55 Carlos Sainz McLaren Renault 53 +95.462s 8
7 7 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 52 +1 lap 6
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 52 +1 lap 4
9 4 Lando Norris McLaren Renault 52 +1 lap 2
10 10 Pierre Gasly Red Bull Racing Honda 52 +1 lap 1
11 3 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 52 +1 lap 0
12 11 Sergio Perez Racing Point BWT Mercedes 52 +1 lap 0
13 18 Lance Stroll Racing Point BWT Mercedes 52 +1 lap 0
14 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 52 +1 lap 0
15 23 Alexander Albon Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 52 +1 lap 0
16 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 52 +1 lap 0
17 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 52 +1 lap 0
18 88 Robert Kubica Williams Mercedes 51 +2 laps 0
19 63 George Russell Williams Mercedes 51 +2 laps 0
NC 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 44 DNF 0