Victorious Lewis Hamilton claims rival Sebastian Vettel let off the hook at French GP after Valtteri Bottas crash

Phil Duncan
Lewis Hamilton retook the lead of the championship with a win in France - AP

Lewis Hamilton claimed his championship rival Sebastian Vettel was let off the hook at the French Grand Prix following his first-corner collision with Valtteri Bottas.

A dominant Hamilton ruled from start to finish on Formula One's return to France after a decade away to claim his third win of the season, and move back ahead of his rival at the top of the driver standings.

"I am so happy for England," a jubilant Hamilton said over the Mercedes radio with his victory coming a mere two hours after Gareth Southgate's side demolition job of Panama. But Hamilton's mood later hardened as he watched a replay of Vettel's crash with Bottas on the 210mph charge to the opening bend here at the Paul Ricard Circuit.

Hamilton shook his head in the green room. "Jeez, he took him right out," he said. "Oh, man, that's crazy."

Vettel was hit with a five-second penalty, which he served during his second pit stop, but it had little effect on the German's comeback drive from 17th to fifth. The stewards could have dished out a drive-through penalty which would have cost the German 20 seconds. A stop-and-go penalty would have been closer to half-a-minute. Vettel had to come in for a new front wing following the crash, while Bottas suffered a puncture. He limped back to the pits for new tyres. The floor of his Mercedes was damaged, too. He toiled home in seventh.

Valtteri Bottas spins after being hit by Sebastian Vettel Credit: ap

Hamilton, now 14 points clear of Vettel, delayed his televised post-race media call for a handful of minutes after he said the camera lighting was too intense. When he emerged, he claimed Vettel's penalty was too lenient.

"For me, it is definitely disappointing because the team had a chance for a one-two finish,” Hamilton said.

"When someone destroys your race through their error, and they get a tap on the hand, and are then allowed to come back and finish ahead of the person they took out, it does not weigh up.

"Ultimately, Seb should not have not been able to finish ahead of Valtteri because he took him out of the race."

It was easy going for Lewis Hamilton at Paul Ricard but he won't mind as he retakes the championship lead Credit: REUTERS

Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who finished as the runner-up to Hamilton, has courted criticism this year following a number of crashes. Sitting to Hamilton's right, he jovially said: "Next time you see Seb you should ask him to change his style. Honestly, it is not acceptable. That is what they said to me at the beginning of the season. They should do the same to him."

After banging wheels with Hamilton in Azerbaijan, crashing out in Singapore, tangling again with Hamilton and also Verstappen at the start in Mexico, and running off the road at April's Azerbaijan Grand Prix, this was Vettel's fifth costly mistake in 12 months.

Is he making too many errors to win a fifth title?

"We are all on the edge and fighting for world championships," Hamilton said in defence of his rival. “We are not out there pootling around. We are putting our lives on the line.

Max Verstappen pushed Lewis Hamilton as much as he could but it was only good enough for second Credit: GETTY IMAGES

“It is not like being on a train track. Sometimes you go off. We are only human.”

Hamilton, armed with his new Mercedes engine, has been in emphatic form in France, and after topping both practice sessions on Friday, sticking his Mercedes on pole, and then nailing the start, his win yesterday never appeared in doubt.

Even a first-lap safety car, deployed when two of the three Frenchmen competing crashed out as Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly smashed into the Force India of Esteban Ocon, would not bother Hamilton.

He added: "To have this result is a great day for the UK, and I hope that I have contributed in a positive way.”

There is no reason for positivity at Hamilton’s old employers at McLaren. This has been a calamitous weekend for Britain's biggest F1 team.

Fernando Alonso, who retired on the last lap with a suspension failure, blasted it as their "worst performance of the year". His team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne could manage only 12th.

Alonso spun when he was overtaken by Vettel in the early exchanges, and then grumbled over the radio as he toiled around at the bottom of the order here at the Paul Ricard Circuit.

"I have no tyres, no brakes, and I am out of the points," an animated Alonso barked. "I am trying to do whatever. I don't care too much."

He later added: "This was by far the worst performance of the year. I really hope it is a one-off and not the normality."

French Grand Prix 2018 results

5:40PM

That's it from me today, one down and two to go in F1's first-ever triple-header

The French Grand Prix didn't have the rain many would have wanted. But it did have a lot more on-track action than many thought. This was partly due to the front-runners Bottas and Vettel having to work their way through the field from the back after their first lap collision. There was, to be fair, action between the midfield runners as well. And plenty of issues to investigate, with a handful of drivers taking penalties.

Lewis Hamilton deservedly took another win - his 44th win in F1. He takes a 14-point lead into the next round in Austria next week. Sebastian Vettel ruined his own and Valtteri Bottas's race in the process. He took a five second penalty for that but it looked like it could have been more. That's racing at the start, I guess. 

Max Verstappen is getting his season back on track and it was a much-needed third place from Kimi Raikkonen, too. His fourth of the season. Another points finish for Charles Leclerc, too, with his third tenth place finish in four races, taking him to 11 points for the season. 

Who will have the upper hand in Austria? We won't have to wait long to find out. I'll be back next week to take you through it all. Only a few days to wait. And then it's the British Grand Prix in a fortnight! See you then. 

It was a simple, flawless race from Lewis Hamilton Credit: REUTERS

 

5:24PM

The moment Hamilton won the 2018 French Grand Prix

5:17PM

Hamilton's face when he saw the replay of the first lap incident...

5:16PM

Valtteri Bottas talks of the first lap incident and his slow stop

I went for the outside, I think I braked quite a bit later. Left enough room for him to be inside still but I think he went wide and hit me. I got decent damage on the floor. I think there was an issue with one of the rear tyres and lost a bit of time there, potentially one place. 

5:15PM

Niki Lauda is not a happy man over the Vettel/Bottas incident

I think we could have done [finished 1-2] and why Vettel only gets five seconds for this enormous mistake I don't understand. It's too little. Five seconds is nothing. He really destroyed the whole race for himself and for Bottas. 

Niki Lauda speaks to Sky Sports F1 Credit: SKY SPORTS F1

5:12PM

Vettel speaks to Sky Sports F1

My start was too good and then I ended up with nowhere to go. It was my mistake. I tried to brake early and get out of it but. Obviously Valtteri tried to get his position back which is fair enough but then I had nowhere to go. With that little grip I could only open the radius and that meant I made contact with Valtteri. I think we had good pace. Therefore it's a bit difficult to say because you are always on different tyres. I think we had pace to go at least with Mercedes. 

Vettel makes contact with Bottas Credit: SKY SPORTS F1

 

5:09PM

Toto Wolff speaks to Sky Sports F1

It feels really good after we've had some time struggling. Absolutely, it's [the new engine] the result of so many people working together. Our result is fantastic. 

On Hamilton's resolve after a poor weekend in Canada:

I think like any human being you have off days and you have really good days. I think it makes him stronger in the long-term. 

On Bottas and Vettel's first lap collision:

Sebastian has a very good start and then Valtteri is much quicker on the outside. It was a misjudgment by Sebastian because it ruined his race as well. Obviously Sebastian finished fifth. The floor was completely shot. His [Bottas's] comment was that the car had shocking behaviour so it was about damage limitation. 

5:04PM

Catch him if you can

5:02PM

Driver of the day? 

Sebastian Vettel! Of course. Who else could it possibly be.......?

5:01PM

The podium

The French Grand Prix podium Credit: SKY SPORTS F1

5:00PM

Ferrari reckon they had the pace to win the race...

...did they, though? I'd say no. They may have pushed Hamilton a bit harder than Verstappen was able to do. 

Hamilton looks at the replay of Bottas being taken out by Vettel, raising questions about whether a five second time penalty was really fair.

"Jeez, he took him right out. Oh man! That's crazy!"

He has a point. It ruined Valtteri's race, really but it was at the start of the race, where the penalty for such an issue is greater. 

4:56PM

Leclerc secures another point...

...that's his fourth points finish in five races, which included one DNF. 

4:55PM

Raikkonen reacts 

It felt quite slippery in the first corner. I chose to go the outside but it was the wrong side. I think we did a decent recovery. Things worked well and in the end we had a lot of speed and managed to get on the podium. 

A good drive from the Finn. It was needed after a scruffy few weekends.  

4:53PM

Verstappen reacts to his second place

I tried to follow Lewis but he was controlling the pace. I enjoyed that. Of course I didn't really have to work hard for it but it's always good to be on the podium. 

Max Verstappen speaks to Jean Alesi Credit: SKY SPORTS F1

4:51PM

Hamilton reacts

I feel very grateful, just grateful for a solid weekend. I am just forever grateful for all their work here at the track and back at the factory. This is a great day.  I hadn't really thought about it [retaking the championship lead] but that's where I want to be.

The race winner, Lewis Hamilton Credit: SKY SPORTS F1

4:49PM

Updated constructor standings

 

4:48PM

Updated driver standings

4:47PM

The rest of the classified runners

11. Grosjean

12. Vandoorne

13. Ericsson

14. Hartley

15. Sirotkin

16. Alonso

OUT: 

Stroll

Perez

Ocon 

Gasly

4:46PM

The rest of the points finishers...

6. Magnussen

7. Bottas

8. Sainz

9. Hulkenberg

10. Leclerc

"Happy Sunday," says Lewis Hamilton as he references England's win earlier in the day. Easy as you like for both of them.  

4:44PM

LEWIS HAMILTON WINS THE 2018 FRENCH GRAND PRIX

As easy as England's win against Panama. Almost as emphatic as well. He will retake the lead of the championship from Sebastian Vettel by a fair margin again. Nice work. 

Verstappen drives well to come second and Raikkonen finds some form for another podium, his fourth of the season. Vettel finishes in fifth, a tough and troubled raced for the Ferrari driver but a nice recovery drive nonetheless. 

1. Hamilton

2. Verstappen

3. Raikkonen

4. Ricciardo

5. Vettel

4:42PM

FINAL LAP

We are going to finish under the VSC. Or are we? Not quite. We might get half a lap in but that will be a formality...

4:42PM

Lap 52 of 53 - VSC period

This has been very easy for Hamilton. Just as in Spain he never looked troubled. He was helped by not having another Mercedes or Ferrari behind him. 

4:40PM

Lap 52 of 53

VIRTUAL SAFETY CAR DEPLOYED

That could well be the race. That works out well for Sainz who should keep P8 if it lasts until the end. 

Hamilton still leads comfortably. 

4:39PM

YELLOW FLAG - STROLL CRASHES

Whats happened here? He has a puncture on his front left. He's out. His front wing is damaged. His tyre fails at the end of the straight with his team-mate right behind him. That front right was flat spotted and very worn. Not a huge crash but a worrying one. 

4:38PM

Lap 50 of 53 - Sainz loses power!

Ouch. He was the lead Renault. It doesn't look to be terminal just yet but Magnussen and Bottas are closing up very quickly. They both take him into the first corner...can he make it until the end?

4:36PM

Lap 49 of 53 - Bottas closing in on Magnussen

Christian Horner says Ricciardo's car was hit by some debris and was losing downforce. 

Hamilton leads by 4.3s from Verstappen. Looks like an easy with for the current world champ from here. He'd take a 14 point lead into Austria if it stays as it is. Which it probably will. 

4:35PM

Lap 48 of 53 - Vettel in P5 30s behind Ricciardo

Fernando Alonso pits again and comes out in last on the road. A painful Sunday for Fernando. Verstappen cuts Hamilton's lead to 3.8s, going over a second quicker than the Mercedes driver. 

4:33PM

Lap 47 of 53 - Hamilton leads by four seconds ahead of Verstappen

Ricciardo gets his elbows out at turn one, making it very difficult for Raikkonen. Great defensive driving! He holds him off for now but the DRS on the Mistral straight is just too much for the Red Bull.

Raikkonen now up into third! 19 seconds behind Verstappen. 

4:31PM

Lap 45 of 53

This third place looks nailed on to be Raikkonen's. He's having a funny old season, really. They are both making their way through traffic. Raikkonen not being helped by the backmarker Stroll though. He's within a second of the Australian now. 

4:29PM

Lap 44 of 53

Both McLarens and both Williams now lapped. Leclerc closing in on Hulkenberg. Raikkonen eyeing up Ricciardo. Bottas eyeing up Magnussen and Sainz. 

4:28PM

Leclerc looking good for some points

4:27PM

The battle for the back of the points

The gap to leader and the gap to the next driver are the right two columns. 

The battle for the points Credit: FORMULA1.COM

 Raikkonen lapping a fair amount quicker than Ricciardo in third. Hamilton extends his lead to 5.5s. 

4:25PM

Lap 41 of 53 - Hamilton leads from Verstappen

Vettel takes his second stop and with it his five second penalty. He comes out in fifth place, some 35 seconds down from his team-mate. He has the ultrasofts on but it will be some ask for him to beat Raikkonen to fourth. Ferrari could bring the Finn in to aid Vettel but we wouldn't want to see that. As it stands he's the quickest man on the track.

Hamilton's lead is now 4.2s from Verstappen. 

4:23PM

Lap 40 of 53 - Slow stop for Bottas!

It was the right rear that was the problem...that's a nightmare. Probably cost him a few seconds, there, negating Vettel's five second penalty that he takes at his next stop...

Bottas out in P9. 

4:22PM

Lap 38 of 53

Vettel lets Raikkonen through. Vettel surely needs to stop now? He's over two seconds off the pace of the leaders and a second off Bottas's pace behind him. A pit stop would drop him behind the Finn...questions to be answered. 

Vettel lets Raikkonen through Credit: SKY SPORTS F1

Leclerc past Hartley and closing in on Nico Hulkenberg. 

 

4:19PM

Lap 37 of 53 - Hamilton leads by 4.2 from Verstappen

Magnussen puts on a nice move into the chicane, taking him past Vandoorne for ninth. Leclerc now running firmly out of the points in P12 but he is closing in on Hartley ahead of him on much fresher tyres. Don't be surprised to see him in the points at the end. 

Verstappen's last lap was 0.5s quicker than Hamilton's. But Hamilton is likely not pushing too much. 

4:17PM

Ricciardo targeting the podium

4:16PM

The Top 10 on lap 36

The top 10 on lap 35 Credit: FORMULA1.COM

 Does Verstappen have enough to challenge Hamilton? 

4:14PM

Lap 35 of 53 - Ricciardo gets through past Vettel...

As Raikkonen pits. Vettel now lapping a couple of seconds slower than the Red Bulls. Vettel slow on these used tyres. 

4:12PM

Lap 34 of 53 - Hamilton comes out in P2, behind Raikkonen

The gap between Hamilton and Verstappen is now five seconds, so that worked out okay for Verstappen. Vettel is a further six or so seconds down the road and is being hunted down by Ricciardo in the Red Bull, who is flying. 

4:11PM

Lap 33 of 53

Leclerc does get through Stroll easily. 

"OK, Lewis, box, box, box box." The race leader will come in for his only scheduled stop. He will lose the lead to Raikkonen but what will the gap be to Vettel. Vettel has a five second time penalty to be applied, remember. 

 

4:09PM

Five second time penalty for Grosjean for causing a collision

That would keep him in his current position - Vandoorne is over six seconds behind. Meanwhile Charles Leclerc pits for Sauber for the supersofts and comes out behind Lance Stroll in P16. He will want to get past him soon and he probably will on these tyres. Stroll pitted very early, I think. 

4:07PM

Lap 30 of 53

Hamilton now leads by 19s ahead of Raikkonen. Raikkonen would come out behind Vettel if he stopped. Not sure what they are doing with his strategy here. Possibly sacrificing him for Vettel again? No, no, I jest. 

Things are starting to settle down a bit now the frontrunners have mostly made their way through the field. 

What chance a sprinkling of rain? It has not yet arrived and does not look like doing so just yet. 

4:06PM

Bodywork flying in the Bottas/Vettel collision

One of them is facing the wrong way in this photo. I am not sure who. 

Bottas and Vettel collide Credit: AP

 

4:04PM

Lap 29 of 53 - Ricciardo pits

Where will he come out? 2.5s in the stop. Quick.

He's out behind Verstappen...and he's also behind Vettel! The Ferrari driver jumps the second Red Bull at the pit stop. Vettel has been pumping in the laps on these tyres. 

Sergio Perez pulls his car into the pit lane to retire. Not sure what happened there. He was running fairly well there, in contention for points. It was a possible engine issue. A brand new engine, too. 

4:02PM

Lap 28 of 53

Grosjean does not pick up a penalty for going over the run-off area in turn one.  Carlos Sainz is shown on a replay locking up going into the tight pit entry and comes out very close to Ericsson on his way out. No harm, no foul. Hamilton extends his lead over Ricciardo to 12.6s. HAM is lapping quicker than Verstappen on his fresh tyres though. 

4:01PM

Donner und Blitzen

Or whatever the French for that is. 

3:59PM

Lap 26 of 53 - Verstappen pits for fresh soft tyres

I'd almost forgotten about pit stops in this race. Low degradation on these tyres. Verstappen comes out ahead of Vettel in P4, that was well timed!

Hamilton has a lead of 10 seconds over Ricciardo. 

3:58PM

Lap 25 of 53

"There's some problem with the charger," says Leclerc? I think? Or the tyres? Hard to hear over that grainy team radio.  Bottas is close to lining him up for the overtake. 

3:56PM

Lap 24 of 53

The top 10:

The top 10 on lap 23 Credit: FORMULA1.COM

Hamilton stretches his lead. Charles Leclerc runs wide as he is passed by Hulkenberg. His lap times look okay, though, if a little down on where they should be.  

3:54PM

Strategy watch

 Hamilton looking very comfortable. Vettel 18s behind his team-mate Raikkonen in fourth. When I said Vettel was 17.6 behind Hamilton I was wrong (15:50) - that was the gap to Raikkonen. Apologies. 

3:52PM

Lap 21 of 53 - Hamilton leads by 5.3 from Verstappen

"Possible rain in 20 minutes," Fernando Alonso is told over the team radio.  Hmmm.

3:50PM

Lap 20 of 53 - Vettel moves past Sainz before the chicane

He is now just 17.6 behind leader Hamilton Raikkonen. Hamilton is currently the fastest man on the track by a few tenths. Grosjean complains about being pushed off the track and out of the points by Bottas. Looked fine to me. 

3:49PM

Lap 19 of 53 - Hamilton leads by five seconds from Verstappen

Bottas goes up the inside of Grosjean through le Beausset. A nice move. He's now into the points, 41s off the lead. Vettel closing in on Sainz - within DRS range. 

3:47PM

Lap 18 of 53

Hamilton picks up the pace and stretches his lead a little. Vettel is making nice progress as he moves past the Haas of Kevin Magnussen into P6. Grosjean hanging onto the top 10 for now, Bottas is within a second. 

3:45PM

Lap 17 of 53 - Hamilton leads by 4.3s from Verstappen

Raikkonen becomes the fastest man on the track with a 1.36.7. He's closing in on Ricciardo, who is closing in on Verstappen. You know what? This race hasn't been too bad for overtaking so far. It helps to have fast cars at the back, though. 

Vettel gets past Leclerc for P7 at the chicane quite easily. Team-mates next season?

3:43PM

It's dark over Bill's mum's

 Sirotkin under investigation for going too slowly under the Safety Car. He's last on the road at the moment. 

3:42PM

Lap 15 of 53 - Bottas past Perez up into P11

He gets punch and brave into turn one and two and goes around the outside of the Force India. He's 33 seconds away from his team-mate. Is a podium too far a target for Vettel and Bottas? Probably at this point. 

3:40PM

Lap 14 of 53 - Hamilton leads by 3.8 from Verstappen

Vettel gets past Grosjean now and is up into P8. He's currently 26 seconds and a whole pit stop behind Hamilton. A nice position for the Briton to be in at this stage. 

3:39PM

Lap 13 of 53

Top 10, interval and gaps:

The Top 10 on Lap 12  Credit: FORMULA1.COM

3:37PM

Er, that's not the track, lads

 Avoiding action taken at the start of the French Grand Prix. 

3:36PM

Lap 11 of 53 - Vettel takes Hulkenberg into le Beausset

He moves up into the points. Bottas not making much progress at the moment. Leclerc's lead ahead of Grosjean has stabilised to 2.4s. 

3:34PM

Vettel's Ferrari like a hot knife through Swiss cheese

Hamilton leads by 2.5s ahead of Verstappen. 

3:32PM

Lap 9 of 53 - Raikkonen up into P5 head of Magnussen and Leclerc

Vettel gets past Vandoorne. And Ricciardo gets past Sainz into third!

FIVE SECOND TIME PENALTY FOR VETTEL FOR THAT FIRST LAP INCIDENT

Should that have been more? Hmmm. If it was his fault entirely then it cost Bottas heavily. 

 

3:30PM

Lap 8 of 53 - Hamilton leads from Verstappen

Three abreast into turn one! Vandoorne, Ericsson and Vettel in that order. Vettel will want to get past these two quickly but without further damage. Vettel sails past Ericsson on the Mistral straight, just before the chicane before setting his sights on the McLaren. 

Those early pit stops have made things interesting strategy-wise. We may see a fair bit of overtaking after all...

3:29PM

Lap 7 of 53 - Hamilton leads from Verstappen

Leclerc gets very close to Grosjean behind him, having lost a place to Raikkonen. The Sauber driver is struggling for pace. He looks easy prey for Grosjean's Haas and might be for Perez's Force India, too. Vettel up to P13. Hamilton leads by 1.5s

3:27PM

Lap 6 of 53 - RACE RESTARTS

Hamilton away ahead of the pack very easily. Magnussen, Leclerc and Raikkonen looking tasty and close next to each other. There's a yellow flag in sectors 1 and 2. Not sure why...oh, it's Alonso's McLaren. He lost it dueling with Vettel and spun. That surprised the Spaniard. An uncharacteristic error.

3:25PM

Lap 5 of 53 - SAFETY CAR IN THIS LAP

We're nearly ready to race again.  Renault in third on the ultrasofts could be a challenger at the restart. 

3:23PM

Nige not very happy

 The Gasly and Ocon incident also being investigated. 

3:22PM

Williams come in for the soft tyres

They are now in P14 and P15. Verstappen shown going off the run-off area at the first turn, avoiding the carnage. Will the officials take a look at that?

3:21PM

Lap 3 of 53 - SAFETY CAR

Top 10 under the SC. 

Top 10 Credit: FORMULA1.COM

 Vettel and Bottas in 17th and 18th. Last of the runners. Ericsson in P11. 

3:19PM

Vettel locked up going into turn one there and hit Bottas

Will he take a penalty for that? Hard to tell on the only replays we have seen so far. This is exactly what Hamilton needed. Yep, that was Vettel's fault entirely. 

Gasly lost his rear end going and smacked into Ocon, ending both of their races. Not a happy home race for either of them. 

Ocon crashes out Credit: SKY SPORTS F1

 Vettel under investigation for causing a collision. 

3:16PM

Lap 1 of 53 - SAFETY CAR 

A gaggle of cars file into the pit lane. Vettel changes his front wing. This is not what he needed. He goes onto the soft tyres. Bottas is still limping around the back of the field with a rear left puncture. 

3:15PM

Vettel has a big problem

At the front of his car. His front left is sparking. Gasly also out. Bottas has a puncture...what a chaotic star. It's Vettel's front wing that is the problem. He's down in P11. 

3:14PM

THE 2018 FRENCH GRAND PRIX IS GO!

Good start by Hamilton and Bottas but not for long! Bottas hits Vettel going into turn two! Or the other way around. 

Hamilton leads from Verstappen. There's a wheel-less Force India at the back of the pack. Sainz up into third!

SAFETY CAR OUT

3:13PM

The cars form up on the grid...

...all 20 of them. We wait for the lights to go out. 

53 laps to go. 

3:10PM

The formation lap begins...

...and everyone is away cleanly. 

3:09PM

Hulkenberg and Perez in P12 and P11...

...the only drivers starting on the yellow marked soft compounds. Long first stints from them. Perhaps hoping to lengthen the rain window? Worth a go. 

3:06PM

We're nearly there...just five minutes until the start of the first French GP for a decade...

...Hamilton favourite here. Had an off weekend in Canada but can bounce back straight away in the first part of F1's first ever triple-header. 

3:04PM

The tyres the top 10 drivers are starting on

A little mixed up at least. Ferrari on different tyres to Mercedes and Red Bull. Could Vettel get the jump over Bottas at the start on softer rubber?

Driver tyre types for the French GP Credit: FIA.COM

3:02PM

C'est sec?

 

3:01PM

10 minutes to go...

...there's a man on a hoverboard above the grid. Of course there is. 

Rocketman... Credit: SKY SPORTS F1

2:58PM

It's good to see the French Grand Prix back on the calendar, isn't it?

 

2:51PM

20 minutes until lights out...

...and still no sign of rain. Plenty of clouds. None of them look that dark. Martin Brundle's out on his grid walk. Not many drivers out there. England are 6-1 up against Panama in added time at the end of the match and all is good with the world. Has Lewis Hamilton taken his eyes off it yet? Will he be inspired by Southgate's lads biggest (numerically, at least) ever World Cup win. 

2:46PM

The grid for today's race

The top 10 on the grid Credit: FIA.COM
Bottom 10 on the grid Credit: FIA.COM

2:44PM

Leclerc's point about the Haas cars is worth noting

They line up in P9 and P10. They should really be a couple of places higher each, though. Magnussen's final qualifying was wrecked by his own-team mate crashing and Kimi Raikkonen getting in his way. Not ideal. Grosjean looked quicker than his team-mate all weekend but will start 10th after putting his car into the barrier before setting a time in Q3.

Oops. 

2:42PM

What are all those red and blue lines about?

They may be headache-inducing for the viewer and possibly even the drivers but there is a simple explanation. They are painted lines with different levels of abrasion. Very high grip and abrasion if you go onto the blue lines and extremely high grip and abrasion if you stray onto the red ones. So, you may end up with flat spotted or ruined tyres if you make a mistake.  Give me a gravel trap any day of the week. 

Red, white and blue in France Credit: GETTY IMAGES

2:39PM

Charles Leclerc had a superb qualifying session, he will start in P8

He's speaking to Sky Sports F1 before the race.

"I need to calm down a little bit because the start of the race is coming soon. Now fully focused on race day. I would prefer rain. We expect [the Haas cars] to be very strong in the dry."

2:36PM

Pit lane open...the cars make their way to the grid

35 minutes to go until lights out.  

2:35PM

McLaren's woes worsen in France

Their worst qualifying of the season, which follows their previous worst qualifying of the season last time out in Canada. Things not looking good for one of F1's great teams.  Here's what Phil Duncan said in his post-qualifying report

But Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne qualified only 16th and 18th of the 20 runners on another humiliating day for the failing McLaren team.

Eric Boullier, McLaren's racing director, insists he will not resign, but the decision could soon be taken out of his hands following another abject display from the team he has presided over since 2014.

Boullier, 44, was pulled from McLaren's media schedule on Saturday evening.

Zak Brown, McLaren's American chief executive, said Boullier was in an engineers' briefing, but then refused to confirm whether the Frenchman would still be in place for the remainder of the season.

"I am not going to get into any personnel changes," Brown said. "We have a team of 700 or 800 people, and Eric is a valued member of the team. But clearly we have to identify why we have missed this year's development of the car."

2:31PM

Strategy pointers for today's race from Pirelli

 A certain one-stopper for the top 12 or so then, you'd have thought. Something needs to be done to address these one-stop races. 

2:29PM

Current driver standings

Hamilton will return to the top if he wins today. 

  1. Sebastian Vettel - FERRARI  - 121 
  2. Lewis Hamilton - MERCEDES - 120
  3.  Valtteri Bottas - MERCEDES - 86
  4. Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL - 84
  5.  Kimi Raikkonen - FERRARI - 68
  6. Max Verstappen - RED BULL -  50
  7.  Fernando Alonso - MCLAREN - 32
  8. Nico Hulkenberg - RENAULT - 32

Vettel leading the A-Class and Alonso the B-Class. 

2:27PM

Hamilton reacts to yesterday's pole position

It was a good qualifying session. I think the team have done a great job throughout the weekend. I think we have all pulled together and done a great job in putting the car where we need it, for both Valtteri and I. The session was pretty straightforward, it was a really simple session to be honest. I think Q1 and Q2 were particularly good and then Q3 was OK. It could always be better. But [I’m] really, really happy to have the pole. It’s something we have been working on for so long. And the pressure is, as you know, you can see how close it is between us all. It’s really, really great to have this result, and a one-two.

Lewis Hamilton took his 75th F1 pole position in France Credit: GETTY IMAGES

2:25PM

F1 news updates - what's happened in the past fortnight?

2:21PM

Lewis Hamilton takes pole for the French Grand Prix

2:17PM

David Coulthard's column on the return of F1 to France

Formula One is back in France for the first time since 2008. I remember the last race at Paul Ricard in 1990, but I never got the chance to compete.

While I was racing, F1 went to Magny-Cours for several years, and I won the French Grand Prix, so I have always enjoyed the atmosphere.

France is one of the founding fathers of the sport, given that it staged the first motor race, and F1's governing body, the FIA, are also based in Paris. So there are a number of reasons why it is actually surprising that it has taken 10 years for the sport to return.

 Read his full thoughts in his column for us. 

2:15PM

Weather update...

...Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but it looks more likely to be dry for the race now. 

Paul Ricard weather Credit: METOFFICE.GOV.UK

2:12PM

The Circuit Paul Ricard

Narrow, technical and unlikely to be great for overtaking. The drivers have a few concerns about the layout. Complaints ranged from the pit entry and pit exit being dangerous (the pit exit comes out on the racing line at the end of the pit straight and in the braking zone) to the request to remove the chicane down the Mistral straight. I reckon that will be removed for next year. 

The Circuit Paul Ricard Credit: FORMULA1.COM

 Interesting that there's a large grandstand where that chicane is situated, eh?

2:08PM

Some decent qualifying lap time analysis from The F1 Formbook on Twitter

Vettel was probably at the limit with his best lap in Q3, and his final run was a scruffy attempt to make up the deficit.  

2:04PM

Weather update...

It may rain, it may not. Looking at the probability we should it's more likely that we will see some rain during the race. 

Today's weather Credit: METOFFICE.GOV.UK

 We will keep you updated. 

1:22PM

Hello! Good afternoon and welcome to our live coverage for the 2018 French Grand Prix

Formula One racing returns to France for the first time in a decade and to the Circuit Paul Ricard for the first time since 1990, when Alain Prost won in his Ferrari. This circuit was designed as a test track, which is why it has a potential 150+ configurations and very unusual run-off areas. And also why it's not optimised for overtaking. 

Yesterday's qualifying session had a lot of intrigue, as have many this year. Heavy rain affected final practice and severely limited running for most of the drivers. It looked like it could be a wet qualifying at one point but the rain stopped towards the end of final practice and had dried up almost entirely by the start of qualifying. 

As it was Lewis Hamilton was favourite for pole after topping both practice sessions on Friday. So it turned out as the current champion and the man second in the 2018 championship took his 75th pole, though it was not without a challenge. Valtteri Bottas was just over a tenth of a second behind his Mercedes team-mate in second. 

Hamilton took a 75th career pole at Paul Ricard Credit: ACTION PLUS

Sebastian Vettelcouldn't find the necessary pace to challenge the front row and ended up nearly 0.4 seconds down from Hamilton, with a scruffy final run in Q3. The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were a little bit further down the road and will start in fourth and fifth today. Kimi Raikkonen had a poor final qualifying and ended up sixth. 

Other than Hamilton, the undoubted star of qualifying was Sauber's Charles Leclerc, who put his car where it has no right to be, going through to final qualifying for the first time in his career. He will start eighth, ahead of the Haas cars of Kevin Magnussen - who was impeded by Raikkonen in Q3 - and Romain Grosjean - who crashed out of final qualifying before setting a time.

A word for Marcus Ericsson, too, whose only real action before qualifying was in first practice, having missed FP2 with his car being repaired. He made it into Q2 for the first time this year and starts 15th. 

The forecast today is for potential showers and thunderstorms around the time of the race. There's a bit of weather about, as they say. Given the layout of this track - remodeled as a test track in the 2000s - and the trouble these 2018-spec cars rain may be the best chance of an interesting race. If it doesn't rain...well, don't say you were not warned. 

I'll be here for the next few hours with all the build-up, live updates and reaction from the 2018 French Grand Prix. Will the championship lead change hands again? Can Valtteri Bottas secure his first win of 2018? Will it rain? We shall see very shortly.