Lewis Hamilton is unstoppable in France
Mercedes's Lewis Hamilton resists challenge from teammate Valtteri Bottas to clinch French Grand Prix; extends overall championship lead to 187 points
Le Castellet (France): Lewis Hamilton extended his championship lead and continued his relentless run of success when he scorched to an emphatic victory ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas at the French Grand Prix on Sunday. The defending five-time champion repeated his pole-to-flag triumph of 2018 with a flawless drive to his fourth win in succession, sixth this season and 79th of his career. His victory extended Mercedes' unbeaten start to the 2019 season to eight races and their overall winning streak to 10, the Silver Arrows leaving their main rivals trailing in their wake again.
After eight of this season's 21 races, Hamilton leads the championship with 187 points ahead of Bottas on 151. "It's definitely been a really good weekend," said the Briton. "It's such a challenge out there and I live that, really trying to find the edge." "I couldn't do it without this incredible team and we are creating history -- and I am so proud to be part of it," Hamilton reflected. In sweltering conditions, he extended his title race lead over Bottas to 36 points -- with Charles Leclerc finishing a strong third following a determined drive in his Ferrari. Bottas, who resisted a late charge from Leclerc, said: "Ultimately, Lewis was quicker today and I couldn't match his pace." Leclerc said: "I gave it everything, but the Mercedes are just too quick."
Max Verstappen was fourth for Red Bull ahead of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari and the resurgent McLaren of Carlos Sainz. Vettel, who started seventh after a troubled qualifying, took a late pit stop for fresh tyres and snatched fastest lap and a track record by 0.024 seconds from Hamilton in the final seconds. Daniel Ricciardo was seventh for Renault ahead of Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo and Nico Hulkenberg in the second Renault with Lando Norris finishing 10th despite hydraulics problems in the second McLaren. The race began with a track temperature of 57 degrees Celsius and an air temperature of 30, sizzling conditions that ensured a difficult afternoon for tyre-wear. Hamilton made a smooth start with Bottas and Leclerc following him on the opening lap, the Englishman soon opening up a gap of more than a second, by the end of lap one, and 1.5 by lap three. On lap six, Vettel finally passed Norris for sixth.
The British rookie responded at Signes, but Vettel resisted while Hamilton, at the front, reeled off another fastest lap. Vettel continued his progress, passing Sainz into the chicane on lap seven for fifth, 18 seconds adrift of the leader, but back in the main scrap behind him. By lap 12, Hamilton was 2.5 seconds clear of Bottas, but the Finn responded with a fastest lap of his own. Ricciardo was the first man to pit after 15 laps, sparking a sequence of reactions that saw his direct rivals respond, all switching to 'hard' compound tyres. After the leading cars had pitted Hamilton had pulled clear by 12 seconds reeling off fastest laps. If the outcome looked inevitable, it seemed so to Leclerc as well. When Ferrari asked him if he could push more, he replied: "I could, but it not good for the tyres. So, no..." Like the spectators, he may have been aware that since Le Castellet rejoined the calendar, Mercedes have topped every session and won both races.
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