5 things we learned from Lewis Hamilton’s French Grand Prix victory

Lewis Hamilton moved back to the top of the Formula One driver standings with victory at the French Grand Prix.

Hamilton is 14 points clear of Sebastian Vettel after he finished fifth following his first-corner collision with Valtteri Bottas.

Here, we look back at five talking points from Sunday’s race at the Paul Ricard Circuit.

Vettel makes another costly error

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Sebastian Vettel’s title bid suffered another blow (Martin Rickett/PA)</figcaption>
Sebastian Vettel’s title bid suffered another blow (Martin Rickett/PA)

Sebastian Vettel took blame for his crash with Valtteri Bottas, and so he might. Vettel lost control of his Ferrari, and scuppered Bottas’s race. Indeed the German was himself fortunate to get away with only a damaged front wing, and put on a decent recovery drive to finish fifth. But the opening-lap crash was his fifth big error in 12 months; last season in Baku (banged wheels with Hamilton), Singapore (crashed out at the start), Mexico (tangled with Hamilton and Max Verstappen), and this year in Baku (lost two positions following a failed move on Bottas). During the same period, Hamilton, aside from his qualifying crash in Brazil when he had already won the title, has not put a telling foot wrong. Vettel, despite boasting the quicker machinery for the majority of the eight rounds, is now 14 points adrift of the Mercedes driver. It would seem that Hamilton boasts a stronger mindset in the heat of battle, whereas Vettel loses his cool. It is proving the difference.

Hamilton back on top, and Mercedes back on form

This was probably Hamilton’s most complete performance of his championship defence. He was fastest out of the blocks in practice on Friday, saw off Bottas to take pole on Saturday, and then led all but one lap of Sunday’s race. Hamilton’s form has been mixed this year, but his win in France could prove critical as the sport embarks on a gruelling run of five grands prix in six weeks. The momentum has swung from Mercedes to Ferrari, back to Mercedes and then Ferrari again, but on the evidence of Hamilton’s dominant showing in France, the ball is in the court of the Silver Arrows. Austria, the sport’s next venue, has been a happy hunting ground for Mercedes in recent years, while Hamilton is the master at Silverstone with four consecutive victories. Nor should we forget that Hamilton is traditionally stronger in the second half of the year. The pressure is growing for Vettel…

How much more can Alonso take?

McLaren’s staff will attempt to regroup in Austria this week following what must be considered as one of the worst weekends in their 52-year history. There were reports of team mutiny off the track, coupled with a desperate performance on it, while Fernando Alonso’s final-lap retirement after a suspension failure was the icing on the cake. Alonso is out of contract at the end of the year, and there was a growing feeling in France that the double world champion has had enough. Should Alonso quit, McLaren want to replace him with a marquee name, and it emerged that Daniel Ricciardo is on their list. But as one leading figure in the sport put it, the Australian would have to be “barking mad” to swap Red Bull for the desperately failing British team. McLaren’s racing director Eric Boullier is under increasing pressure and it seems improbable that he will still be at the team after the summer break.

Will Ferrari move for Charlie?

Rookie Charles Leclerc delivered yet another eye-catching performance with his fourth points-scoring finish from his last five outings. The Monaco-born driver qualified an impressive eighth, and was as high as sixth before crossing the line to claim a single point. Leclerc has out-performed his Sauber team-mate Marcus Ericsson, a driver who has competed in more than 80 grands prix, and is consistently getting the best out of his rather modest machinery. Leclerc is on the books at Ferrari, and the Scuderia could be tempted to hire him for 2019 with Kimi Raikkonen, 39 later this year, entering the last sixth months of his deal. Leclerc is doing enough to prove he is the real deal, but will Ferrari be better suited to keeping him at Sauber for one more year? At a mere 20-years-old, time is hardly against him.

Traffic trouble blights F1’s French return

Formula One made its foray back to France after a decade-long absence, but it was a weekend tainted by traffic delays. The Paul Ricard Circuit, 25 miles to the east of Marseille, is situated at the top of a hill, making it difficult to access. While F1 personnel and media were able to use a dedicated ‘F1 lane’, the same could not be said for tens of thousands of disgruntled fans with reports of 10-mile journeys taking in excess of four hours. “It’s very frustrating for them, and I can understand that frustration,” F1 chief Ross Brawn said. “We’ll see what we can do in the future.”

- Press Association

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