Lewis Hamilton has retaken the lead of the world championship with victory in the French GP on a troubled day for title rival Sebastian Vettel.
In the first French GP for a decade, a calm and collected Hamilton cruised to a comfortable win ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.
“This is a great day,” said Hamilton, who now leads the standings by 14 points. “It’s the best French GP I’ve ever had.”
But there was drama aplenty elsewhere after Vettel, starting on ultrasoft tyres, crashed into the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas at the first corner.
The stewards blamed Vettel for the collision, imposing a five-second timed penalty on the Ferrari after it limped back to the pits for an emergency repairs.
To add literal injury to insult, Bottas’ car was severely damaged during the incident, leaving the aggrieved Finn with an ill-handling Mercedes to manhandle to the chequered flag while Vettel scythed through the field before taking a second pit-stop with ten laps remaining to slip back to fifth.
Rather remarkably, and to Hamilton’s astonishment, Vettel was subsequently awarded the ‘driver of the day’ award.
Watching a replay of the Vettel-Bottas clash in the pre-podium cooldown room, a scathing Hamilton exclaimed: “He took him right out. That’s crazy!”.
Unhappy Mercedes chief Niki Lauda also argued that Vettel’s punishment was “too little”.