Hamilton triumphs but Vettel and French circuit under scrutiny

GERMAN PRESS AGENCY - DPA
LE CASTELLET
Published

Lewis Hamilton was a happy man after reclaiming the lead in the Formula One championship with a simple win at the revived French Grand Prix, but others were less than impressed with the Paul Ricard track. Mercedes driver Hamilton coasted to the line from pole to overtake Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel at the top of the drivers' standings with 145 points from eight races compared to the German's 131. Vettel ended up fifth after battling back from an error which caused a first lap collision at Paul Ricard - hosting a grand prix for the first time since 1990.

Having not won in two races, Hamilton made some changes for France while Mercedes also switched engines and the overall package worked perfectly on a track where teams had very little data.

"When you're constructive and criticize yourself, approach a challenge with new methods and a new-found determination, it's a great feeling to then get the result," the British world champion said. "The fresh engine put us back in line with everyone else who took a new power unit in Canada and everybody in the team should be feeling happy."

Fans and others stuck in huge traffic jams to reach and leave the Paul Ricard circuit near Marseille were not so pleased. Bringing a grand prix back to a circuit which had not hosted an F1 race in 28 years was always going to have difficulties. Magny-Cours last held the French Grand Prix 10 years ago but was deemed too remote after poor attendances.

Paul Ricard was seen as the answer but the traffic queues were too much and many vented their frustration on social media. Another problem with the track affected television viewers, who complained that the big fluorescent blue lines which covered a lot of the overly wide run-off areas were hugely off-putting. At times it was difficult to tell where the track was.

That excuse could not be used by Vettel, who was slow to brake and clipped Valtteri Bottas' Mercedes at the first corner. The safety car was employed and Vettel pitted for a new car nose while Bottas drove almost on a wheel rim to get to the garage with his tire destroyed. Vettel received a five-second time penalty but did well to get back up to fifth.

Fortunately, we could continue racing, we had a good car in the race, but the outcome was not what we wanted," he said. "It was my fault, but now let's move on and think about next weekend." F1 returns after just a week with the teams moving on to Austria, before another short break ahead of the British Grand Prix.

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