Vettel penalty too lenient - Lauda

by Steven Clarke June 25, 2018, 15:11
Vettel penalty too lenient - Lauda

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will start first and second on the grid as Formula One returns to France for the first time since 2008.

While the Briton led both sessions on a sizzling day at Le Castellet, traffic gridlock on the roads leading to the southern Paul Ricard circuit meant many fans missed much of the action with rows of empty seats in the grandstands.

Hamilton thought that Vettel got away lightly with a five-second penalty for causing his collision.

After a scruffy Q3 lap, Sebastian Vettel was almost four tenths adrift of Hamilton's 1:30.029 benchmark while the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were over half a second behind.

Hamilton has been in emphatic form this weekend, and after topping both practice sessions on Friday, sticking his Mercedes on pole, and then nailing the start, his win never appeared in doubt.

But when Hamilton was asked if he was surprised by the amount of incidents Vettel gets involved in, the Mercedes driver refused to criticise his main championship rival. "I didn't have to work very hard for it but it's good to be in the podium", said Verstappen after his best finish of the season.

Vettel limped back to the pits to get a new nose piece while Bottas got a new tire for the one that was shredded by the nudge from the four-time former champion.

Forecasts of rain never materialised in Le Castellet, but a couple of collisions - one of which ruled home hopes Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon out of the remainder - on a dramatic first lap led to the safety vehicle being deployed.

Bottas was quite calm about the crash after the race, with his recovery drive having been compromised by floor damage sustained in the incident.

It was behind Hamilton that a race more interesting than many feared began to unfold.

There was gloom at McLaren, with last weekend's Le Mans 24 Hours victor and double world champion Fernando Alonso only 16th. "I'm trying to put the puzzle together but I'm optimistic", Ricciardo said at Paul Ricard. "I hope he has damage".

Vettel was 11th by lap 10, eighth by lap 15, and fifth by lap 20, at the back of the lead group. Mercedes kept Hamilton out until lap 33 when he stopped for the soft tyres, emerging behind Raikkonen who had yet to stop. Vettel's teammate Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the podium in third. That is where he would remain.

Fernando Alonso, who was fourth for McLaren.

After moaning about Vettel earlier in the race, Alonso was on the radio again. "I think we had no problems with the tyres, so I think we have made progress, and hopefully we can keep learning and make progress". "I am trying to do whatever. It allowed him to finish ahead of Valtteri in the end".

The four times champion's best time in the second was 1:32.539, with Mercedes finally giving him the updated engine after delaying its introduction in Canada two weekends ago due to a technical issue.

Following England's 6-1 World Cup win against Panama, Hamilton said: "I am so happy for England".

"It's a lovely Sunday, everyone".

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