2018 French GP: Hamilton Wins After First Lap Drama Takes Out Nearly All the French Drivers
Despite the French Grand Prix being the first Formula One race held in France a decade, enthusiasm running up to the event was running low. There are few grandstands, the traffic situation was horrendous, and the circuit itself, at least on paper, seemed poorly suited for facilitating overtakes.
Instead, the 2018 French GP was in some ways the opposite of the 2018 Canadian GP, which had let down viewers with high expectations. The race was a good one from start to finish and there was overtaking aplenty.
That had in part to do with Sebastian Vettel’s blunder at the first corner. Having launched faster than both Mercedes cars in front of him, Vettel found himself boxed between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. He then had to let off the gas and get on the brake early to avoid a collision in the first corner, but even having done so, he locked his brakes nonetheless as a result of the turbulent air in Hamilton’s wake, and crashed into the back of Bottas, who had left him only the utmost minimum amount of space.
An even larger crash between the two Frenchmen Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly took place behind them, prompting the release of the safety car, and even Romain Grosjean was involved in a light collision, proving the universe hates French drivers especially when they race at home.
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Thanks to the safety car, Vettel and Bottas were able to head into the pits for new tires — and for the Ferrari, a new front wing — without losing excessive time, and both proceeded to slice through the field on the restart.
At this stage of the race, Vettel was mightily impressive. In only 15 laps he had overtaken 12 cars and rejoined the top runners. It took Bottas 29 laps to do the same, though neither made much progress after that, and Bottas actually lost a position later in the race after the team botched his second pit stop. Vettel was able to hang on to fifth position despite a five-second penalty for the first-lap collision.
Kimi Räikkönen showed some of his former luster with a few overtakes of his own, and though Max Verstappen seemed to have Lewis Hamilton’s number at the end of the race, the laps ran out before we could see whether the four-time champion was just taking it easy.
Sergio Perez also retired later in the race, resulting in a double DNF for Force India, and Williams and McLaren continued to be disappointing, especially the latter when compared to the other Renault-powered cars, or the Honda-powered Toro Rosso, or even Sauber, who once again scored a point thanks to Charles Leclerc’s brilliance.
The French Grand Prix was the first of the sport’s first triple header. The next race will take place next weekend in Austria, which will be followed by the British Grand Prix just a week later.