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2018 F1

Hamilton Back in Control With French Grand Prix Victory

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Lewis Hamilton won his maiden French Grand Prix, in a country where Mercedes are racing for the first time in the history of their team. The Briton wins his third race this season while he chases his fifth title, on Juan Manuel Fangio’s birthday, the only five time World Champion in F1 history. After the current result, the 33 year old driver has now won a race at every circuit on the current calendar and at 26 circuits in his career. Finishing in second place behind him was Max Verstappen, followed by Kimi Raikkonen who claimed the final podium place by finishing third.

The chaotic start to the race had three incidents causing two of the four retirements on Lap 1 itself. The first incident was that been Sebastian Vettel who started third on the grid, and made contact with Valtteri Bottas. While the German was left enough room by the Finn to race, he locked up his front tyres and rammed into the rear of Valtteri Bottas. A result of the contact was a damaged front wing for the four time World Champion who was leading the title battle by a point, and a punctured left rear tyre and damaged floor for the Mercedes driver who started second on the row.

The second incident at the start was between the three frenchman Romain Grosjean, and Esteban Ocon, where the senior frenchman lost his 10th place to Ocon and made contact while taking it back from him. While Ocon had damage on his car and steered right, the third frenchman on the grid, Pierre Gasly who was avoiding the chaos, couldn’t slow his car while the Force India steered off track. Thus resulting in contact between the two junior French drivers causing both to retire, while Grosjean was penalised with a five second penalty and continued the race to finish in 11th place. The Haas driver might have managed completing the race at his home track, but the frenchman is yet to score a point this season. The multiple incidents on lap 1, brought out the safety car which last from the start to lap 5 till the debris was cleared.

At the front for Hamilton, it wasn’t a lonely race, although he finished it with a seven second lead. The stevenage born driver was constantly pressurised by Verstappen. The Dutchman who was the first to pit amongst the top 4 avoid the chaotic start and jumped to second place from lap 1 to finish at the same aided with strategised tyre choices and a pitstop strategy from Red Bull Racing which helped him put pressure on Hamilton until the last few laps when they encountered traffic and the latter could pull away. The Mercedes driver was asked to turn up his engine every time his rival Vettel had surged up the grid, and later was threatened by Verstappen who was one of the few who was having a trouble free race.

Vettel and Bottas dropped to bottom of the grid at the 17th and 18th respectively, after they pit to repair their damages under the safety car. The German was penalised with a five second penalty, after which he surged up the grid with a fresh set of soft tyres, and end it on ultrasofts tyres to finish in fifth place. Bottas couldn’t replicate the same performance despite the upgraded unit, because the damaged floor affected the balance and overall performance of his car.

According to Vettel who addressed the press after the race it was Valtteri who lost a place to Verstappen and when the Finn tried to get back, the German got stuck between the two drivers. it resulted in him losing grip, locking up the tyres and hitting Bottas. He said “In the end we were lucky to continue in the race. But it is not the race we wanted.” Both the Ferraris were lapping quick times towards the end of the race, with Vettel running fourth and Raikkonen running fifth, however the latter had the chance for a podium as he had more pace on the supersoft compound as to the former whose ultrasoft tyres started losing grip after a point.

Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo managed a fourth place finish after starting fifth on the grid. The Australian was running third in the race, after his pitstop at and at some point picked up debris, which dropped him 16 seconds or more behind his own team-mate. The debris had damaged the flap of the front wing, which was causing massive understeer at the corners, and making the Red Bull Racing driver a sitting duck to get passed by Kimi Raikkonen who by then had surged to fourth place.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen finished sixth followed by Bottas in seventh. The two Renault drivers Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg finished in eighth and ninth place respectively. Sainz who was running third in the race at the start, first dropped down to fourth after getting overtaken by Ricciardo and later dropped to sixth after a pitstop and getting overtaken by the Ferraris. The Spaniard complained about loss of power around which made him bring the car limping across the finish line. For the German Renault driver it was an improvement from 12th place he started from after a disappointing qualifying session, as he was able to pass a few cars at the start and finish four places ahead in the points.

The final points finish of the race went to Sauber driver, Charles Leclerc who started the race in eighth place and was running as high up as fifth at one point in the race, until a slow pitstop by his team catapulted him to the back of the grid in 16th place around lap 33. The 23 year old ferrari junior driver surged up to 10th place to complete his fourth points finish of the season. The Monagasque who is being hailed for his immense talent has pushed the best out of the Sauber this season and made his presence felt on the grid with a startling performance in qualifying.

Force India team driver Sergio Perez had to retire due to engine problems, completing the double retirement for his team, in what could be summed up as a disastrous weekend for them. His engine trouble was caused due to what the team described as ‘a sudden drop in pressure’, which is stil being investigated. The final retirement was that of Lance Stroll who flat-spot his tyre after picking up debris at the Signes corner, causing him to spin into the barriers at Turn 10, bringing out the Virtual Safety Car on the second last lap of the race.

The current race result catapults Hamilton back into the lead, with a total of 145 points and Vettel trails 14 points behind him with a total of 131 points. In the Constructors’ title Mercedes lead with a total of 237 points followed by Ferrari with a total of 214 points. The current race was the first of the triple header race schedule in the calendar of 21 races, with over 75 critical points to gain over the three back to back weekends. The next race will be held at the Austrian circuit in Spielberg followed by Silverstone on the following weekend.

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