The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX: France: Hamilton Magnifique On F1’s Return To France

26-06-2018

By Jack Target

It’s amazing what an engine upgrade can do for you. Lewis Hamilton took advantage of one as he went back to winning ways, strolling his way to victory in southern France. 

The Circuit Paul Ricard welcomed Formula 1 back to French land after ten years away, to kick start a European triple with Austria and Silverstone following. Despite some complaints from the drivers about the track, it looks like amendments will be made already but a return was on the cards with three French drivers on the grid all impressing in recent years.

Before any racing got underway there was plenty of news as Daniel Ricciardo seems very coy on his future. After news broke that Red Bull will be switching from Renault to Honda engines, the Australian wasn’t exactly full of hope and praise for the Japanese manufacturer. It looks like he is keeping his options open with possible seats at both Mercedes and Ferrari on the cards. One thing we do know is that he is unlikely to move to McLaren who offered £20 million to Red Bull for his services. This was politely declined.

One man who didn’t have to travel too far was Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard was in France already, having won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. That’s now two of the triple crown that he has won. The bid from McLaren for Ricciardo has also intensified the rumours that Alonso will not be in F1 next season, as he aims to win the third jewel race for that crown, in Indianapolis in Indy Car racing.

Alonso may want to go there sooner as he went from great highs to great lows this weekend. Both his and his teammate’s McLaren were very slow over the weekend and both were out in Q1 in qualifying. 

The French contingent had a mixed bag in their home race weekend with Esteban Ocon just missing out on Q3, with Romain Grosjean getting in, only to hit the wall meaning he would start from 10th. 

It would be an almost expected Mercedes front row with Sebastian Vettel just behind. However the main story was the continual rise of Charles Leclerc. The Monegasque driver qualified in 8th, Sauber’s best result in a very long time. He backed it up once again with a points finish. We are some way off ‘silly season’ in F1 but when it does come around, Leclerc to Ferrari will be one of the rumours mentioned. Some of the Tifosi  may be happier to see Ricciardo in red next season, but Ferrari may not have a choice if they want to keep the impressive Leclerc on their books.

It was a chaotic start to the race behind Hamilton as Vettel locked up through the first corner and made contact with Bottas. the pair then spun out and limped their way back to the pits, with the Ferrari having to get a new front nose. 

There was some contact further back and a sad sight for the home crowd as two of the three Frenchman, Pierre Gasly and Ocon, both had to retire early on. 

Max Verstappen was able pass the melee and move up to 2nd, where he stayed for the remainder of the race. Further down it meant Leclerc was up to the dizzy heights of 6th, battling away with some of the big boys. 

For Bottas and Vettel, the pair were able to move up the field very quickly with Vettel getting up to 5th just after a quarter of the race gone. The German’s early incident was almost a blessing in disguise as he took advantage of other cars going in for a tyre change, something he had already done. At one point he had passed his teammate Kimi Raikkonen but, like his tyres, it wouldn’t last as he came in for another set late on, settling 5th. 

Meanwhile Bottas’ second stop cost him dearly as he encountered a problem with a rear tyre not going on properly. In the end it cost him three places but he made some of that up by finishing in 7th.

There wasn’t much drama after that until three laps to go when Carlos Sainz, going very well in 6th, was losing power in his Renault causing him to finish in 8th. Sainz has impressed again this year and may well be on the move again, back to Red Bull if Ricciardo does go elsewhere.

The race ended on a bit of a damp squib as Lance Stroll caught a puncture from some debris, causing the race to carry on under the virtual safety car until half a lap was left. 

It was a much needed win for Hamilton who now moves 14 points clear in the drivers championship. He will be hoping to extend that lead in what could be a frantic few weeks of Formula 1. At the end of this race Hamilton thanked his team as usual and congratulated the England football team who had just secured their biggest World Cup win earlier that day. He will be hoping for another great day for his homeland in Britain in two weeks time when he races at Silverstone and England, hopefully, will be on their way to the semi-finals!