French GP 2019
JUNE 23, 2019
Race Analysis - Runaway
By Dan Knutson
Lewis Hamilton ran away with the victory in the French Grand Prix by leading every single lap while his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas finished second. Here's how Hamilton did it.
Hamilton and Bottas traded places for fastest lap throughout practice and qualifying.
But on their final laps in Q3 Hamilton went faster to claim the pole. Bottas lined up second.
Row two of the grid consisted of Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and Max Verstappen (Red Bull).
QUITE A WHILE
McLaren had its best qualifying performance in quite a while with Lando Norris fifth and Carlos Sainz sixth.
Vettel started way back in seventh place.
"I don't know what happened but I lost so much momentum that there was no point to finish that lap," he said of his final qualifying run. "Not great, up and down. Some laps felt great, others didn't. In the end I didn't get the best out of the car, which is not satisfying."
By the end of the first of 53 laps Hamilton already had a one-second lead over Bottas in second place.
"The start was my best bet, but Lewis also had a good start, so the opportunity wasn't there," Bottas said. "Lewis was very quick today."
Leclerc ran third ahead of Verstappen, Sainz, Norris and Vettel. They would be bit players in the story of Hamilton's victory.
For most drivers including Hamilton this would be a one pit stop race. Bottas stopped at the end of lap 23. Hamilton pitted a lap later without losing the lead.
"I was not expecting the medium tire to go as far as it did but I was able to continue," Hamilton said. "They stopped me, for sure, too early. I could have kept going for at least another five, maybe even ten laps, I had a lot of life left still in the tires. And then we got onto the next tire (the hard compound) which felt good initially but then I got a lot of graining on the tire."
It might have looked serene from the outside, but Hamilton was working hard.
"It was relatively eventful," he said of his race. "I think something broke in my seat – like one of the seat stays, so as I was going through one of the corners, all of a sudden the thing kind of dropped and was moving around a little bit. And then the start was good, then the first couple of laps with the tires was not so easy – I don't know how it was for the other guys but sliding around a little bit at the beginning. And then after that I kinda got into my rhythm and after that was quite comfortable."
Bottas was rather more uncomfortable that his teammate, and he had to slow down to conserve his tires.
"I was trying to keep up, but my front tires were starting to fall into pieces, both on the mediums and at the end on the hard tires towards the end as well," Bottas said. "We were concerned with the blistering we saw in the last part of the race, so I had to back off a little bit. There was definitely a bit of margin left, but we wanted to be on the safe side and make it to the end. But ultimately, Lewis had the pace advantage today and kept the tires in better shape, so it's something for me to have a look at and learn."
CHANCE TO ATTACK
Leclerc closed in on Bottas.
"I'm pleased I was able to fight for second place right at the end, even if I never had a real chance to attack Valtteri," Leclerc said after finishing third. "I am satisfied because we managed to maximize the potential of the car."
LONELY BUT NOT BORED
"The race was a bit lonely at times but it wasn't boring as I had Charles (Leclerc) in sight which was good motivation to keep trying to match his lap times," Verstappen said after finishing fifth.
Vettel finished fifth.
"I had a pretty lonely race, apart from a bit of confusion at the start, given that the timing of the lights going out caught us a bit by surprise," Vettel said. "It was fun fighting with the McLarens, first Norris then Carlos. The first stint went pretty well and that meant I could close the gap to Charles and Max. Then in the second one, I had a few more balance problems and I didn't feel totally comfortable with the car."
At least Vettel got the bonus point for setting the fastest lap of the race.
NOT STRONG ENOUGH
"We still need to understand why Friday was so complicated with some of the parts we brought here not working as we had hoped," Vettel said. "Our car is not yet strong enough and it's down to us to improve. We still don't have the pace to beat Mercedes."
Hamilton has now won six of the seven races this season in the very strong Mercedes.