French Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton says the time penalty handed out to championship rival Sebastian Vettel didn’t carry the same weight as the damage done to Valtteri Bottas’ race.
Hamilton won the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard on Sunday, comfortably leading the race throughout after championship rival, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, was involved in a collision with Valtteri Bottas. Running through the first turn, Vettel misjudged his braking point and hit the sister Mercedes, spinning Bottas around and giving the Finn a puncture.
Vettel pitted for a new front wing and a change of tyres to run long into the race and, with no extensive damage, was able to recover to a healthy P5 finish. This was despite being given a five second time penalty after the stewards investigated the Turn 1 clash. Bottas, with a little more damage to his car and having been just behind the Ferrari when the race resumed after the Safety Car, was only able to manage P7 and 19 seconds behind Vettel at the chequered flag.
“For me it’s disappointing because for the team we had the chance to get a one-two, and I think that would have been a… it’s always an incredible feeling to get a one-two, that’s the ultimate goal within the team.” said Lewis Hamilton when he was asked for his opinion regarding Vettel’s penalty. “Valtteri had really done a solid job all weekend, as he has really been doing this year. I mean, we’re all going into Turn One as hard as we could – but yeah, ultimately when someone destroys your race through an error and it’s only kind-of a tap on the hand really, and just allowed to come back and still finish ahead of that person that they took out, it doesn’t weigh up, y’know? Ultimately, he shouldn’t really be able to finish ahead of him, because he took him out of the race. But, yeah… that’s the call they made.”
Vettel was apologetic after the race, and made no attempt to deflect the blame away from himself. He said that he had been to see Bottas since the collision in order to apologise: “My mistake. I tried to brake early and get out of it, [but] I had no grip being so close to the cars in front and also next to me. Valtteri tried to get his position back, [which is] fair enough and I had nowhere to go obviously. The turn goes left and I tried to slow down, but with the grip I could only open the radius and that meant unfortunately I had to make contact to Valtteri.”
“Obviously for Valtteri it was very bad because it affected his race and he had nothing to do with it, so I went to him after the race. Given the situation, how tight it was, I think we were both lucky in a way to be able to continue.” Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
Mercedes’ Niki Lauda was angry after the race, backing up Hamilton’s opinion that Vettel had not received enough of a punishment for the collision: “[It was] an enormous mistake… Five seconds is nothing. He really destroyed the whole race for himself and for Bottas”.
Hamilton, who went untroubled for the rest of the race after escaping the Lap 1 carnage, now leads the World Championship battle by 14 points over Vettel as F1 immediately turns its attention to the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring this weekend. He says that the race in France went perfectly according to plan on his side of the garage: “I was very comfortable with the balance this afternoon. Max had decent pace, but I could maintain the gap at around five seconds.
“The fresh engine put us back in line with everyone else who took a new PU in Canada and everybody in the team should be feeling happy today for the good work they have done.
“But there’s a long way to go and we’ll keep approaching the rest of the season like we approached today.”
Magnifique!! 🇫🇷 It’s an amazing feeling winning here. I feel very grateful for a solid weekend. Huge thanks to every single person at the Team for always pushing the boundaries and never giving up. I want to thank each and every one of them 🙏🏾⚡️ #FrenchGP @MercedesAMGF1 pic.twitter.com/8rIFH9BKTq
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) June 24, 2018