Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton

Le Castellet — Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton won the French Grand Prix on Sunday to retake the overall lead from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who finished fifth after a first-lap collision.

The victory, for Mercedes, was the 65th of Hamilton’s F1 career but the Briton’s first in France, which was returning to the calendar after a 10-year absence, and it also continued a triumphant day for English sports fans.

"Great work, guys! I’m so happy for England as well," he said over the team radio, referring to the national soccer team’s 6-1 World Cup rout of Panama in Russia.

"It’s a beautiful Sunday, everyone," Hamilton said.

Hamilton, who had started on pole position, now leads Vettel by 14 points after eight of 21 races. The Briton has 145 and the German 131.

Record race

Red Bull’s Dutch 20-year-old Max Verstappen took the chequered flag in second place with Kimi Räikkönen completing the podium for Ferrari and Australian Daniel Ricciardo finishing fourth for Red Bull.

Hamilton had never won in France and his victory at Le Castellet, a southern circuit that last hosted Formula One in 1990, set a record for the most wins at different grands prix.

He had shared the record of 22 with retired seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher. He also extended his record of wins at different circuits to 26.

There was drama at the start as Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas lined up on the front row with Vettel just behind in third. Vettel and Bottas collided as they jostled for position. The German got a five-second penalty for causing the collision, dropping both to the back of the field after pitstops.

Two of the three French drivers retired on the spot, with Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly the unlucky casualties.

Vettel returned to the pits for a new front wing while Bottas limped back on three wheels and a rim.

Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen finished sixth for the Haas team, with Bottas finishing seventh and Carlos Sainz eighth for Renault.

Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg took ninth place with Monaco rookie Charles Leclerc a fine 10th for Sauber, denying Haas’s French driver, Romain Grosjean, his first point of the season.