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Hamilton wins French GP to retake lead in F1 title race

Associated Press logo Associated Press 25-06-2018 By JOSEPH WILSON, Associated Press
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain celebrates on the podium after winning the French Formula One Grand Prix at the Paul Ricard racetrack, in Le Castellet, southern France, Sunday, June 24, 2018. Second placed Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, left and third placed Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland, stand on the podium with Hamilton.(AP Photo/Claude Paris) © The Associated Press Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain celebrates on the podium after winning the French Formula One Grand Prix at the Paul Ricard racetrack, in Le Castellet, southern France, Sunday, June 24, 2018. Second placed Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, left and third placed Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland, stand on the podium with Hamilton.(AP Photo/Claude Paris)

LE CASTELLET, France — Lewis Hamilton capitalized on a mistake by rival Sebastian Vettel to enjoy a wire-to-wire victory at the French Grand Prix on Sunday and retake the lead in the Formula One title race.

Starting third behind Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, Vettel tried to use his faster set of tires to make a good start.

But the German's lunge on the inside of the first corner crunched his Ferrari into the back of Bottas, damaging both cars and sending them into the pits for repairs.

Vettel emerged with a new front wing and the entire field to fight through, and even though he made quick work of the slower cars he had to settle for a fifth-place finish.

Formula One F1 - French Grand Prix - Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France - June 24, 2018   Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton celebrates on his car after winning the race   REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY © Reuters Formula One F1 - French Grand Prix - Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France - June 24, 2018 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton celebrates on his car after winning the race REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen in his Ferrari crossed second and third to complete the podium at the Paul Ricard Circuit. Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was fourth.

Defending champion Hamilton has 145 points after eight races. Vettel, who entered the race with a one-point lead, leaves trailing by 14.

While Hamilton thanked his team for its "great work" via the radio after crossing the finish line, Vettel regretted that he "had lost the race on the first lap."

"My start was too good. Then I ended up with nowhere to go," Vettel said. "It was my mistake, I tried to brake early and get out of it, but I had no room and no grip, being so close to the car in front and also next to me."

Formula One F1 - French Grand Prix - Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France - June 24, 2018   Second placed Max Verstappen of Red Bull, Mercedes team manager Ron Meadows, race winner Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and third placed Max Verstappen of Red Bull pose for a photo on the podium after the race   REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier © Reuters Formula One F1 - French Grand Prix - Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France - June 24, 2018 Second placed Max Verstappen of Red Bull, Mercedes team manager Ron Meadows, race winner Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and third placed Max Verstappen of Red Bull pose for a photo on the podium after the race REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Hamilton dominated the race, qualifying and Friday's practice sessions boosted by an engine upgrade that Mercedes had expected to roll out in Canada, when Hamilton finished fifth and lost his lead to race winner Vettel.

"A fresh engine is always a good thing," Hamilton said. "After seven races there is no way it can have the same power as a brand new engine. The guys did a great job. They work to create the best engine in the world."

It was Hamilton's 65th career win. Only Michael Schumacher has more victories with 91.

Just after the run-in between Vettel and Bottas, there was further trouble when Pierre Gasly ran his Toro Rosso into the back of Esteban Ocon's Force India, knocking them both out of the race and bringing out the safety car.

LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 24:  Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates in parc ferme during the Formula One Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 24, 2018 in Le Castellet, France.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images) © Getty LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 24: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates in parc ferme during the Formula One Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 24, 2018 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Bottas, who needed a new rear tire, had to restart at the back with Vettel.

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

"It's a shame, we had a chance for a one-two (finish)," Hamilton said. "I mean we are all going into Turn 1 as hard as you could, but when someone destroys your race through an error, it is kind of a tap on the hand."

But Hamilton then added: "Those things happen."

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton stands in front of third placed Ferrari's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen as he celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One Grand Prix de France at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, southern France, on June 24, 2018. (Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images) © Getty Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton stands in front of third placed Ferrari's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen as he celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One Grand Prix de France at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, southern France, on June 24, 2018. (Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

"I thought I was going to get rear-ended," he said. "(But) we are all fighting for world championships. We are not twiddling around."

Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Bottas, Carlos Sainz (Renault), Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) and Charles Leclerc (Sauber) finished out the points.

Force India's bad day only got worse when it also lost Sergio Perez midway through the race due to an engine issue.

Fernando Alonso, who won the 24 Hours Le Mans classic endurance race last week, endured more misery back with McLaren. The former two-time champion failed to finish his third consecutive F1 race when his McLaren had a problem with its back left tire and he was forced to retire late.

LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 24:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9, Valtteri Bottas driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9, Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB14 TAG Heuer and the rest of the field race towards the first corner during the Formula One Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 24, 2018 in Le Castellet, France.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) © Getty LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JUNE 24: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9, Valtteri Bottas driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9, Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB14 TAG Heuer and the rest of the field race towards the first corner during the Formula One Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 24, 2018 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Lance Stroll also failed to finish when a tire blew on his Williams.

Driving conditions were optimal at the 5.8-kilometer (3.6-mile) circuit situated just inland from the Cote d' Azur.

However, the handful of secondary roads that led to the track produced hours-long traffic jams for the tens of thousands eager to attend their first F1 race in France since 2008.

The return of the French GP is the first part of an unprecedented tripleheader of three races on consecutive weekends.

With less time for Ferrari's engineers to play catch up, Hamilton will hope to press his advantage at the Austrian and British races.

Also watch: Lewis Hamilton's studio sessions with Jess Glynne

Replay Video

(Provided by Bang Showbiz)

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