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French Grand Prix: Five things we learned

French Grand Prix: Five things we learned
© Reuters
Lewis Hamilton extended his lead to 36 points in the standings.

Lewis Hamilton strengthened his hold on the world championship with a dominant victory at the French Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver is now 36 points clear of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the standings.

Here, Press Association Sport looks back at five things we learned from Sunday's race at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

1. Dominant Hamilton in a class of one

Formula One is in the dock after a tepid race in the south of France. Hamilton won the gallop to the opening bend before proceeding to lead all 53 laps in a devastating victory, his sixth from eight rounds. This has not been a vintage year for F1, with Hamilton calling for dramatic change. "If you say it's boring, I totally understand," he said. Yet, the Briton, through his sheer brilliance, is arguably the sport's biggest problem. No other driver is on his level. Bottas cannot live with him. Indeed, if Bottas was the lead driver for Mercedes, Sunday's race would have reached a thrilling climax, with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc pursuing the Finn all the way to the line. Sebastian Vettel cannot live with Hamilton either. Ferrari's confidence-shot star driver is facing a third year in his rival's shade. Max Verstappen, the man who might be able to challenge Hamilton, can do little in his under-performing Red Bull. One journalist summed it up when they half-joking, half-serious asked Hamilton if he could slow down at the next race. But Hamilton, who has won 14 the last 19 races, is showing no signs of taking his foot off the gas in his relentless pursuit of championship number six. Sometimes, genius should just be appreciated.

2. Bottas is not title material

Given Ferrari's failure to build on their pre-season form, the onus is on Bottas to take the fight to Hamilton this year. There were signs he might be able to, winning two of the first four races, but the Finn is not in Hamilton's league. A fine peddler, yes. Championship class? No. "He [Hamilton] is not unbeatable," said Bottas. "I just need to work hard." Bottas may have been trying to convince himself, but he convinced few others.

3. Is it game over for Vettel?

  1. Lewis Hamilton - 187 points
  2. Valtteri Bottas - 151
  3. Sebastian Vettel - 111
  4. Max Verstappen - 100
  5. Charles Leclerc - 87

It is difficult not to feel some sympathy towards Vettel. In the space of two-and-a-half years, the German has been blown away by Hamilton – to such an extent that many are questioning the credentials of a man who has won four world championships and 52 races, third only to the aforementioned Brit (79) and Michael Schumacher (91). In France, his mind was pre-occupied with Ferrari's appeal to reverse his Canadian Grand Prix penalty. He messed up qualifying, finishing seventh, and had little impact in the race, improving just two places to fifth. Vettel is 76 points behind Hamilton, and the longer his winless streak continues, (302 days and counting) the harder it is to see him return to his peak.

4. McLaren's upward curve continues

Carlos Sainz finished sixth in France
Carlos Sainz finished sixth in France (Claude Paris/AP)

After years of turmoil, McLaren are enjoying an encouraging campaign. Lando Norris, the impressive British teenager, and Carlos Sainz qualified fifth and sixth respectively – McLaren's best grid positions in five years – before the latter finished sixth. Norris' afternoon was hampered by a hydraulics issue, but still took two points for ninth. McLaren are way off the top, but after a long decline it looks as though Britain's biggest team is finally getting its act together.

5. French GP track plays role in dull affair

Hats off to the French Grand Prix organisers for sorting the traffic woes which heaped misery on last year's race (but also contributed to 25,000 fewer fans attending this time around). The south of France is an idyllic venue. The Circuit Paul Ricard is not an idyllic track. The garish blue and red stripes which run through the 3.4-mile course make for nauseating TV viewing, while the huge run-off areas sees mistakes go unpunished. The race on Sunday was one of the worst in recent memory, and there can be little doubt that the uninspiring circuit played its part in that.

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