Belfast Telegraph

Sixth title looks a formality for Lewis

 

Untroubled: Lewis Hamilton
Untroubled: Lewis Hamilton

By Philip Duncan

Lewis Hamilton dominated the French Grand Prix to continue his best ever start to a Formula One season.

Hamilton crossed the line a crushing 18 seconds clear of Valtteri Bottas in the sister Mercedes following an emphatic performance at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

On a perfect afternoon, the five-time world champion extended his lead over Bottas, his closest challenger, to 36 points.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc ran Bottas close in the final stages, but stayed in third ahead of the Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.

Sebastian Vettel took the chequered flag a distant fifth, a full minute down on Hamilton. Vettel may have claimed a bonus point for the fastest lap, but he is a morale-sapping 76 points adrift of Hamilton in the championship race. Hamilton has now triumphed six times from the opening eight rounds.

A sixth world title, which would move him to within one of Michael Schumacher's record, is becoming an inevitability.

The combination of Hamilton and his Mercedes machine is proving unstoppable. Here, he was unchallenged from pole position, leading every lap en route to recording his 79th career win.

The Briton requires 13 further victories to topple Schumacher's win record. There are 13 races left this year.

Ferrari have been no match for Mercedes this season, and have endured arguably their worst weekend yet in France.

They failed in their appeal to overturn Vettel's penalty which lost him the Canadian Grand Prix a fortnight ago and Vettel could qualify only seventh, before making up just two places.

British teenager Lando Norris was unable to build on his career-best qualifying of fifth.

The 19-year-old novice lost out to McLaren team-mate Carlos Sainz on the race down to the opening bend, before Vettel's Ferrari cruised past him on lap five.

Then, he was forced to nurse a suspected hydraulics issue to the line. Norris looked as though he would hang on to seventh but cruelly lost three places on the final lap, to Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg, finishing 10th.

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