LE CASTELLET (France) • Lewis Hamilton was almost unchallenged after the first corner of the French Grand Prix and put in a dominant performance to seal victory yesterday.
With his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas taking second, the Silver Arrows secured another one-two finish and their eighth consecutive win this season, while Ferrari were effectively in a different race.
Charles Leclerc managed third with Sebastian Vettel in fifth, having started from seventh on the grid. Sandwiched between the Scuderia pair was the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
Hamilton led from pole with a consummate if not entirely thrilling display of control from the very front and did not surrender his lead throughout for his 79th career victory and second in a row at Circuit Paul Ricard.
He finished a full 18 seconds in front of Bottas, with Leclerc 19 seconds back.
Mercedes, who took their first F1 win here at the French Grand Prix in Reims with Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio in 1954, were in control all weekend and Hamilton was able to turn the dominance he showed in qualifying into a fearsome performance in race pace.
FRENCH GRAND PRIX
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1hr 24min 31.198sec
2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes +18.056sec
3 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari +18.985
4 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull +34.905
5 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari +1:02.796
6 Carlos Sainz (Esp) McLaren +1:35.462
7 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault +1 lap
8 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo +1 lap
9 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault +1 lap
10 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren +1 lap
OVERALL - DRIVERS
1 Hamilton 187pts 2 Bottas 151
3 Vettel 111 4 Verstappen 100
5 Leclerc 87
1 Mercedes 338 2 Ferrari 198
3 Red Bull 136 4 McLaren 39
5 Renault 36
The Briton now has six wins from eight meetings this season, including the last four in a row and it seems inevitable that more will follow this term.
After extending his lead over Bottas to 36 points in the championship standings, with Vettel a further 40 points back, Hamilton could afford to wear a broad smile at the conclusion of "a very good weekend".
The five-time world champion said: "I have been racing a long time and this never gets old (standing on the winner's podium). I just try to find the edge and I couldn't do without this incredible team and all the guys back at the factory.
"I am hyped, it's a beautiful day in the south of France but it is sweaty. It is very bumpy and actually an awesome track to drive. It wasn't easy at all. There's always things happening… this has been the best start ever to the year."
The initial charge Bottas made to open the season looks to be faltering in the face of Hamilton once more coming in to his own.
After qualifying, the championship leader suggested he would only be getting stronger and, on this form, it is hard to disagree with him, refusing to allow his teammate a look-in across the 53 laps in another display of precision driving.
The Finn, however, attempted to put on a brave front after insisting Hamilton was "not unbeatable" and that he would continue to "work hard to beat him".
For Vettel, who qualified poorly, and Leclerc, they managed to maximise what they could with a car that was demonstrably not as quick though the corners, despite making time back in the two big straights.
As things stand, the title fight is at best now a two-horse race between Hamilton and Bottas.
Leclerc admitted as much, conceding that "Mercedes were too quick early on".
The Monaco native added: "I gave it everything. I felt OK with the car... We did a great job with tyre management and I was catching Valtteri for P2, but ran out of laps.
"I have tried everything. In the last two laps, I was getting quite close. I believed in him until the last minute."