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F1: Lewis Hamilton dominates French Grand Prix

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“I know people might not want to hear it,” Lewis Hamilton said after utterly dominating the French Grand Prix, to take his sixth victory in eight races this season, “but it is going to get stronger from here”.

To some, that might sound a little boastful, but the thing is that there is no reason not to believe him.

The pattern of the last couple of years in Formula 1 has been exactly what Hamilton was talking about after probably his most comfortable win of the season.

He has tended to start the year well enough, but not necessarily noticeably stronger than his team-mate, or his other closest rivals, only to find another gear from about halfway through the season and move off into the stratosphere.

The worry in 2019 for Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas, Ferrari, and anyone interested in a competitive season is that, this year, that take-off appears to have happened early. If that impression is correct, the season is effectively over already.

Hamilton heads for the next race in Austria this coming weekend with a 36-point lead over Bottas. That means Bottas would have to win a race and take at least fourth place at another without Hamilton scoring at all to catch him.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, in third place and a massive 76 points adrift, is so far away he is almost in a different championship.

Hamilton and Bottas started the season evenly matched. And after the Finn won the opening race of the season while Hamilton toiled a little behind him, there was much talk of a ‘Bottas 2.0’, a new man emerging, reinvigorated, after his travails in the second half of last year.

That always looked a little hopeful and premature, but Bottas did indeed have a strong start to the year. He and Hamilton shared two wins apiece in the first four races, after which Bottas actually led the championship by a point.

Since then, though, things have unravelled for him. A second place in Spain behind Hamilton, after taking pole, when Hamilton beat him off the line, was followed by an unlucky third in Monaco, which would have been second had he not suffered a puncture when Max Verstappen drove him into the pit wall at a stop.

Lack of fizz: Bottas is now 36 points behind his Mercedes team-mate

In both, the margins between him and Hamilton were small. But that has not been the case in the last two races in Canada and France.

By Andrew Benson. Chief F1 writer /BBC Sports

 

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