French GP driver ratings

Lewis Hamilton was at the top of his game from the get-go in France, setting the pace in both of Friday’s practice sessions, claiming pole position and cruising to victory with a faultless display when it mattered most. His post-race insight that he turned down his engine from the first round of pit-stops was an illustration of how he has matured and evolved into someone doing a very passable impression of the complete race driver.

Hamilton wins after Vettel crashes
Vettel accepts blame for collision

Think Australia qualifying and there’s an instant reminder that Hamilton is still capable of Senna-esque bursts of speed. But Hamilton these days isn’t all about speed. Sunday’s victory, achieved with the minimum of fuss and with safety first, was an illustration that when he wants, and when he fancies putting on his title-winning cap, he can be Prost-like.
Rating out of ten: 9.5

Another impressive, mature drive from Max Verstappen, who is finally starting to make up for his error-prone start to the season. And, judging by his post-race comments, it seems the Dutchman is enjoying this spell out of the media spotlight as another driver was criticised for a first-lap collision.

Verstappen turns on his critics

Verstappen, starting fourth after an impressive qualifying, took the escape road to avoid the Vettel-Bottas crash and was therefore immediately up to second, which he never looked like giving away as he showed strong race pace throughout. Hamilton was never too far up the road but Red Bull felt the world champion was “toying” with them and Verstappen, who had to manage vibration issues, admitted he was never really thinking about the victory.

But he will certainly be happy with a solid second place, his best result of the season, and can now push on in Austria. “It’s important to carry this momentum forward,” he said.
Rating out of ten: 9

While it was an improved display on race-day from Kimi Raikkonen, it’s questionable whether it warranted a podium finish. But for the Bottas-Vettel collision and debris-induced car trouble for Daniel Ricciardo, Raikkonen would surely have finished in the sixth position that he seemed destined for after another acutely disappointing qualifying (over half a second shy of his team-mate).

Still, Kimi did a decent job on Sunday, running the ultrasofts for far longer than anyone predicted beforehand to successfully set up his late-race charge. But does he need more to keep Charles Leclerc out of his seat?
Rating out of ten: 8

Red Bull should have been celebrating a double podium in France with Daniel Ricciardo looking more likely to challenge his team-mate than give up a place to Raikkonen for most of the race.

Ricciardo, however, sustained damage to his front wing just as he was gaining on Verstappen before his first pit-stop and, not for the first time this season, he had to nurse a wounded animal. Unlike in Monaco, Ricciardo wasn’t able to fend off a Ferrari on the Paul Ricard straights and had to make do with fourth.

“I’m obviously a bit disappointed,” said Ricciardo – and rightly so.
Rating out of ten: 7.5

It’s difficult to understand how Sebastian Vettel could have been voted driver of the day given that the Ferrari driver self-sabotaged his victory shot at the first corner in France. The stewards were unequivocal in assigning the blame entirely on Vettel, and the only debate post-race was whether he deserved a stiffer punishment (then again, given Seb finished almost 20 seconds ahead of the nearest car behind him, it would have had to be a far, far more severe penalty to make any difference to the final result).

The bigger issue, though, is the number of mistakes Vettel is making. As recounted elsewhere, Sunday’s first-lap mistake was Vettel’s sixth costly error in the last 12 months. Titles are lost with that sort of count.
Rating out of ten: 6

What a difference a day makes. Kevin Magnussen was fuming after qualifying after having his flying laps disrupted by Raikkonen, but you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face come Sunday.

Magnussen may have been fortunate to have gained a place at the end due to Carlos Sainz’s failure, but he still impressively held off Valtteri Bottas’ charging Mercedes – a display of defensive driving and skilful positioning we haven’t seen too often from the Dane.

Magnussen is single-handedly carrying an impressive Haas package to points this season, and deserves a lot of credit.
Rating out of ten: 9

1:48 Watch replays of how Sebastian Vettel damaged the front wing of his Ferrari after colliding with Valtteri Bottas on lap 1 of the French GP.

Is Valtteri Bottas destined to be 2018’s unluckiest driver? Twice in the last two weeks he’s missed out on pole position by a blink of an eye, and twice in the last five races he’s been denied a hefty haul of points and one very likely victory – Baku – by nothing else than sheer bad luck.
Rating out of ten: 8

“It hurts a little bit to end the race like that.” Carlos Sainz was understandably miffed after Sunday’s race. He had done all that could be asked of him – qualifying as best of the rest, and holding that position right up until the final few laps. Unfortunately he suffered an inopportune MGU-K failure and could do nothing to fight off Magnussen and Bottas.

In the end, he was grateful for the late Virtual Safety Car. Otherwise, he could have quite feasibly slipped out of the top-10 altogether.
Rating out of ten: 9

While ninth was a fair return for Nico Hulkenberg in isolation, the end-result in France flattered Nico against team-mate Sainz. For the first time this season, the Spaniard really appeared to have Nico’s measure this weekend, putting four cars between them in qualifying and the running strongly on race day before the aforementioned engine glitch.

It will be interesting to see if and how the Sainz-Hulkenberg contest reacts this week in Austria.
Rating out of ten: 7

Charles Leclerc’s stock continues to rise. Not only did the F1 rookie drag a Sauber into Q2 for the fifth weekend in a row, an impressive feat in itself, but he then somehow made it into the final shootout and qualified eighth.

As Sky F1’s Anthony Davidson pointed out, Leclerc arguably produced the lap of the day as he became the first Sauber driver to make Q3 since Felipe Nasr in early 2015.

It was all going so well for Romain Grosjean back in France, but an error in qualifying before another one in the race sums up his season and means he is, remarkably given his Haas package, still pointless in 2018.

Grosjean looked like a contender for ‘best of the rest’ before his spin in Q3, but his nudge into Esteban Ocon set the wheels in motion for the first-lap carnage and rightfully earned him a penalty.

Must do better. And fast.
Rating out of ten: 6

McLaren’s pace may be worrying, but so too is Stoffel Vandoorne’s qualifying deficit to Fernando Alonso. In eight grands prix, he has still yet to out-pace his admittedly superb team-mate on a Saturday. Both exited Q1.

Come Sunday, Vandoorne was much happier with his race pace but was never in contention for points, only overtaking Alonso and Ericsson in the final few laps after swapping for the faster ultrasofts.
Rating out of ten: 6

Marcus Ericsson finally made it out of Q1 for the first time this season but continues to be outshone by the dazzling Leclerc. He was more than half a second off his team-mate in qualifying, starting seven places back, and therefore was never likely to get close to him in the race.

He started well, avoiding the early chaos to gain positions, but wasn’t happy with his balance as he came home in 13th. But that Sauber is certainly looking like a strong midfield runner at the moment.
Rating out of ten: 7

Just when Brendon Hartley needed a performance to silence his critics, his Honda engine gave way. Starting at the back of the grid due to those engine penalties meant points were all but impossible, but as Hartley admitted, he was never likely to be competitive in that Toro Rosso anyway.

He had several battles with the Williams drivers, but admitted: “We didn’t have the pace today. I don’t think there was much more we could do.”
Rating out of ten: 6

Another race at the back for Sergey Sirotkin, who was once again hampered by a woefully inadequate Williams car. He can only realistically race with Lance Stroll and was losing that battle before his team-mate’s puncture.

“Obviously you want more pace so you can battle and overtake people, but today that was not the case,” said a despondent Russian.
Rating out of ten: 6

Did not finish…

Fernando Alonso may put an admirably positive spin on his and McLaren’s French GP, but this slump must surely be getting to him. One week after winning Le Mans in an all-conquering Toyota, he was armed with the second slowest car at Paul Ricard and was eliminated in Q1 for the first time this season.

He had to be extremely lucky to have a chance of points in the race but got caught up in the first-lap chaos, only having a bit of fun at the end as he had a fastest-lap attempt on ultrasofts. Even that was halted by a Virtual Safety Car before Alonso’s MCL33 suffered a suspension failure.

Still, he insists he’s “very privileged” to race in F1 and won’t give up on a top three seat for 2019…
Rating out of ten: 6.5

As above. You can only really compare Lance Stroll to Williams team-mate Sirotkin at times like these for the Grove team, and in that sense the Canadian had a positive race. He out-qualified Sirotkin and was ahead of him, after another good start, before his tyre blew.
Rating out of ten: 7

After a disappointing qualifying Sergio Perez made up several places at the start of the race, four in fact to move up to ninth, and would have been on for a point at least had he not suffered a rare reliability failure.

That Mercedes PU issue will be worrying to Force India, but also the works team…
Rating out of ten: 6.5

Not the home race Esteban Ocon had in mind. He enjoyed another good qualifying, beating Perez for the sixth time this season, and was alongside Grosjean as he sped towards Turn One. But Ocon was then shunted by the Haas, causing suspension damage, and his race was then ended for good for his collision with Gasly – which was rightfully adjudged as a racing incident.

Desperately unlucky.
Rating out of ten: N/A

“It’s very difficult to take,” was Pierre Gasly’s take on his early retirement, and he must have thought he had done well to avoid a collision through the opening corners. Unfortunately, he was squeezed into Turn Three by Ocon and had nowhere to go.
Rating out of ten: N/A

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