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Wesley Branton | June 23, 2019 @ 10:48 am
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The F1 teams and drivers were in France, the country that played host to an epic battle between Rene Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve 40 years ago, for the FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DE FRANCE 2019. This was the start of the first back-to-back weekend on the 2019 calendar and it was a race utterly dominated by Mercedes.
Mercedes had a good start off the line, maintaining the positions they started in on the grid. Both Ferrari drivers had a poor start, allowing drivers behind them to attack into the first corner. Both McLarens tried to go on either side of Max Verstappen on the run down to turn one, but neither was able to get by.
Verstappen braked late into the first corner, going wheel-to-wheel with Charles Leclerc in a battle for P3. He wasn’t able to get by and that allowed Carlos Sainz to mount some pressure, looking faster than the Red Bull at some points. Despite his best effort, Sainz wasn’t able to advance his position.
Sergio Perez was given a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, despite rejoining using the safety road like drivers are supposed to, when he ran wide in the first corner.
The pit window opened on lap 17, prompting Daniel Ricciardo to try an undercut Pierre Gasly. Kevin Magnussen followed him in as well. Pierre Gasly pitted to cover off the undercut the following lap, coming out just in front of Ricciardo. But his advantage was shortlived, as Ricciardo was able to cruise by later the same lap with DRS assistance.
Lando Norris responded the next lap, pitting for new tyres. He came out behind Daniil Kvyat. His teammate Carlos Sainz pitted as well. Norris had a good chance to undercut his teammate but Kvyat slowed him down, allowing Sainz to leave the pits ahead of Kvyat.
By lap 21, it was time for the leading cars to pit. Verstappen was the first to do so and, since the top five cars had built a comfortable gap to the rest of the cars in the race, there was no risk of him dropping out of the top five. Charles Leclerc did the same on the following lap, covering off any threat from Verstappen. Verstappen was struggling with lag on the throttle and was having trouble with pace.
On lap 24, Valtteri Bottas pitted from P2 and came out well behind Sebastian Vettel. Lewis Hamilton followed the next lap, keeping his race lead. Vettel began to struggle on the tyres after locking them up and ended up pitting a the lap after Hamilton, slotting into P5 behind Verstappen.
After the pit cycle at the front, Hamilton’s lead had increased to 12 seconds, while the rest of the top five drivers were each separated by around 7 seconds.
There were some battles between teammates. Toro Rosso teammates Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon had a late race battle as Kvyat mounted some pressure on his teammate. Kvyat was eventually able to get by his teammate after diving deep into the corner.
The battle between McLaren teammates Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris last for much of the race, but troubles were brewing for Norris. First, the rookie was told not to use the DRS and then he was told that the steering would get heavy near the end of the race. It was clear that the Brit was nursing home a car with a hydraulic issue.
Daniel Ricciardo was able to climb from the bottom half of the field into a points scoring position and quickly began to attack a struggling Lando Norris. Nico Hulkenberg was able to close onto the back on Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo with five laps remaining in the race. This battle queued up to the back of the battle for P7.
Ricciardo ran deep into the corner, understeering off the circuit slightly. He rejoined the track and Norris had to take evasive action and was dropped to P10. Raikkonen was able to get out in front of the battle momentarily, but he was eventually caught by Ricciardo. The battle attracted the attention of the stewards for a post-race review.
Vettel pitted late in the race for a free pit stop to try and steal the fastest lap from Botts. His only chance was on the last lap and he was able to do it.
Leclerc applied the pressure on Bottas late in the race, but Bottas was able to keep him at bay. Hamilton was able to extend his championship lead as he stood on the top step of the podium.
There won’t be a lot of time to recuperate from the weekend because the teams will need to rush to the Red Bull Ring for the Austrian Grand Prix next weekend. The race will be held on June 30.
Above results table does not include any post-race penalties