“There’s a long way to go.” Lewis Hamilton was pleased to be back on the top step of the rostrum with a commanding victory in France, as his title rival Sebastian Vettel lost ground in the championship battle. But with two thirds of the season still to go, the Mercedes driver was also conscious to keep his emotions in check…
Hamilton and Vettel now have three wins apiece from eight races in 2018, as they each battle to become only the third driver in history to clinch five F1 drivers’ world titles.
Both has shown flashes of brilliance, but they have been interspersed by off-days and errors. It’s therefore no surprise that Hamilton doesn’t want to get carried away after Sunday’s win.
“Every race is a team effort,” said Hamilton, whose team have been highly critical of their performances this season as they bid to come out on top against Ferrari. “When you’re constructive and you criticise yourself and you take a step back and approach it with new methods and new determination and you get a result - it’s definitely a great feeling.
“I feel very grateful for a solid weekend. My guys, I’ve been with them for six years and they are just continuously pushing the boundaries and never giving up, so I’m just forever grateful for all their work, here at the track and back at the factory.
“I was very comfortable with the balance this afternoon. Max had decent pace, but I could maintain the gap at around five seconds. Everyone will be really happy but there is a long way to go. We have to keep approaching it in the way we have.”
Hamilton overturned a one-point deficit to lead Vettel by 14 points heading to next weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix – the second of F1’s inaugural triple header. In the constructors’ championship, Mercedes increased their lead to 23 points – but it could have been so much better.
Mercedes had locked out the front row, with Valtteri Bottas pushing Hamilton close for pole position. However, Bottas was tipped into a spin at the start by Vettel and subsequently faced an uphill battle to get back into the points. He ultimately finished seventh.
“It’s disappointing for the team as we had the opportunity to take a one-two, which is always incredible as you achieve your ultimate goal as a team,” said Hamilton.
Mercedes brought their updated engine to France, bringing them in line with their rivals, who ran their respective Ferrari, Renault and Honda updates for the first time in the last race in Canada.
“The fresh engine put us back in line with everyone else who took a new engine in Canada and everybody in the team should be feeling happy today for the good work they have done,” said Hamilton.
The world champion was hopeful of continuing the momentum in Spielberg, where Bottas took victory in 2017, next weekend. “Austria should be a decent track [for us], it’s been good in the past,” he said. “The car should be good there.”
Mercedes technical director James Allison echoed those thoughts. “The car performance was good all weekend and we can travel to Austria with the optimism that we can keep up the good work in the next races,” he said.