Lewis Hamilton claimed his championship rival Sebastian Vettel was let off the hook at the French Grand Prix following his first-corner crash with Valtteri Bottas.
A dominant Hamilton ruled from start to finish on Formula 1’s first return to France in a decade to claim his third win of the season, and he moved back ahead of his rival at the top of the standings.
“I am so happy for England,” Hamilton said on the Mercedes radio with his victory coming a mere two hours after Gareth Southgate’s side demolished Panama. “It is a beautiful Sunday.”
But Hamilton’s mood later took a turn as he watched a replay of Vettel’s crash with Bottas on the 210mph charge to the opening bend.
Hamilton shook his head in the green room. “Jeez, he took him right out,” Hamilton said. “Oh, man, that’s crazy.”
Vettel was hit with a five-second penalty, but it had little effect on his comeback drive from 17th to fifth.
Vettel had to stop for a new front wing following the crash with Bottas, while the Mercedes driver suffered a puncture. Bottas had to limp back to the pits for a new tyres. The floor of his Mercedes was damaged, too. He toiled home in seventh.
Hamilton, now 14 points ahead of Vettel, delayed his televised post-race media call for a handful of minutes after he said the lighting was too intense. When he emerged, he claimed Vettel’s penalty was too lenient.
A drive-through penalty would have cost the German 20 seconds. A stop-and-go penalty would have been closer to half a minute.
“For me, it is definitely disappointing because the team had a chance for a one-two,” Hamilton said.
“When someone destroys your race through their error, and they get a tap on the hand, are allowed to come back and finish ahead of the person they took out, it does not weigh up.
“Ultimately, Seb should not have not been able to finish ahead of Valtteri because he took him out of the race.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who finished as the runner-up to Hamilton, has courted criticism this season following a number of crashes.
Sitting to Hamilton’s right, he jovially said: “Next time you see Seb you should ask him to change his style. Honestly, it is not acceptable. That is what they said to me at the beginning of the season. They should do the same to him.”
After banging wheels with Hamilton in Azerbaijan, crashing out in Singapore, tangling with Hamilton and Verstappen at the start in Mexico, and running off the road at April’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, this was Vettel’s fifth costly mistake in 12 months.
Is he making too many errors to win a championship?
“We are all on the edge and fighting for world championships,” Hamilton said in defence of his rival.
“We are not out there pootling around. We are putting our lives on the line.
“It is not like being on a train track. Sometimes you go off. We are only human.”
Hamilton, armed with his new Mercedes engine, has been in emphatic form in France, and after topping both practice sessions on Friday, sticking his Mercedes on pole, and then nailing the start, his win never appeared in doubt.
Even a first-lap safety car, deployed when two of the three Frenchmen competing here crashed out as Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly smashed into the Force India of Esteban Ocon, would not rattle the Briton.
Hamilton added: “To have this result is a great day for the UK, and I hope that I have contributed in a positive way.”
Fernando Alonso hit out at McLaren’s “worst performance of the year” following an utterly calamatous weekend for Britian’s biggest F1 team.
Veteran Alonso, 36, retired on the last lap of Sunday’s race with suspension damage, while his team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne could manage only 12th.
“This was by far the worst performance of the year,” Alonso, who started a lowly 16th, said. “I really hope it is a one-off and not the normality.
“In five days we have another opportunity to raise our game at the Austrian Grand Prix. I really hope that we show better form in Spielberg.”