Hamilton eases to French GP win, Vettel only fifth

LE CASTELLET, France -- Lewis Hamilton claimed a comfortable win Sunday at the French Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas as Ferrari and Red Bull failed to challenge the silver cars in front.

As soon as Hamilton led away from pole position and into Turn 1, it looked unlikely anyone could beat him on what was a drab afternoon of racing. He quickly opened up a gap to Bottas and led the Finn by 18 seconds when they crossed the line at the end of the race.

The victory increased Hamilton's championship lead over Bottas to an ominous 36 points after eight of 21 races, meaning Bottas has a huge task at hand if he wants to deny his teammate a sixth world championship this year.

Bottas finished just 0.9 second ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who had closed the gap in the closing stages of the race as the Mercedes driver struggled with his tyres. Most of Leclerc's afternoon had been focused on what was behind him, holding off an aggressive start from Red Bull's Max Verstappen and staying ahead at the midrace pit stop. He did so to record the third podium of his season and career.

Verstappen finished a comfortable fourth ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who had qualified seventh on Saturday afternoon. The German had such a gap to the McLaren of Carlos Sainz in the closing stages he was able to pit for fresh tyres on the penultimate lap and claim the fastest lap as he crossed the finish line -- enough for an extra point. It will likely be of small consolation on a weekend which ended whatever slim chance Vettel and Ferrari had of being in contention for this year's championship.

Sainz managed to convert McLaren's strong weekend into an impressive sixth-place finish. The Spanish driver beat teammate Lando Norris into Turn 1 and stayed in front of the other orange car throughout the contest.

The order behind Sainz looks set to be decided in the stewards' room. On the road, Daniel Ricciardo finished ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg and Lando Norris, but it was all decided on a dramatic final lap.

Norris had spent most of the second stint managing what sounded like a hydraulic issue which restricted his use of drag reduction system (DRS), made his steering heavier and affected the differential of his car, allowing Ricciardo to close up and challenge him for seventh position. Ricciardo got him on the final lap when Norris ran wide, but appeared to briefly go off the track as he did so. That saw him return alongside Raikkonen's Alfa Romeo, but Ricciardo won the drag race down to the chicane. Norris lost another place on the final lap to Hulkenberg and was heard apologising to his team on the cool-down lap. 

Ricciardo finished the race under investigation but, given the fact the duel was the only real moment of entertainment all afternoon, it would be a real shame if the stewards decided to punish the Australian.

Pierre Gasly had a dismal afternoon in the other Red Bull. The Frenchman had only just crept through to Q3 on Saturday, but in doing so ensured he started on the soft tyre -- giving him the least favourable strategy for Sunday's race. He struggled to keep the tyres alive in the opening stint and faded further after his pit stop, finishing a distant 11th position on a weekend that has done little to suggest Gasly will be part of Red Bull's long-term future. 

Racing Point pair Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll finished ahead of Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon. Antonio Giovinazzi, who started on the same strategy as Gasly, was 16th ahead of Haas' Kevin Magnussen on a horrible afternoon for the grid's American team. Haas called in Romain Grosjean to retire in the closing stages. 

Robert Kubica finally beat George Russell to the end of a race, but his rookie teammate was forced to pit on two occasions instead of the standard one.