By Alan Baldwin
LE CASTELLET, France (Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton put on a display of domination at the French Grand Prix on Sunday to go 36 points clear in the Formula One world championship and stretch Mercedes’s winning run to 10 races.
On a scorchingly hot afternoon in the south of France, Hamilton put the rest of the field in the shade as he led from start to finish to take his fourth win in a row and sixth of the season.
The Briton finished 18 seconds ahead of Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas, who was pushed hard at the end by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in a rare moment of tension, as Mercedes celebrated their 50th one-two finish.
“We are creating history together and I’m so proud to be part of this team,” said Hamilton, who also won from pole last year at Le Castellet.
“It wasn’t easy at all and everything is on the edge. I had quite big blisters on the front two tyres – but this has been the best start of the year.”
The five-times world champion now has 79 career wins, 12 short of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record with 13 races remaining this season.
He has 187 points to Bottas’s 151. Mercedes have won all eight races this year as well as the last two of 2018.
Until the closing laps, the main thrill on Sunday was provided by a marshal who darted across the track to retrieve a broken bollard.
Hamilton made a clean start, was 2.3 seconds clear of Bottas after six laps and continued to pull away despite complaining at one point that something had broken on his seat – a gripe undermined by the Briton lapping faster and faster.
Max Verstappen was fourth for Red Bull while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel moved up from seventh on the grid to fifth and gained an extra point after pitting on the penultimate lap for fresh tyres to set the fastest lap.
“This weekend, the biggest aim was to close the gap as much as possible and we failed,” said Vettel, now 76 points behind Hamilton — the equivalent to more than three race wins.
“We have to understand why some of the bits we brought didn’t work and hopefully we can try again and the track layout in Austria next week will go our way.”
Spaniard Carlos Sainz finished sixth for McLaren ahead of Daniel Ricciardo for Renault, but the Australian was summoned to see stewards after the race.
Kimi Raikkonen was eighth for Alfa Romeo with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg ninth and Lando Norris 10th for McLaren after losing three places on the last lap.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)