There was also a collision later on the first lap which sent Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) and Esteban Ocon (Force India) out of the race. "I got a puncture and decent damage to the floor, which really compromised the race".
Like Bottas, Vettel was forced to pit his damaged auto at the end of the first lap, but was also handed a five-second penalty to serve at his second stop of the race. Hamilton had not been troubled at the front of the race, he managed and maintained the gap to Verstappen to ensure a clinical finish.
Forecasts of rain never materialised in Le Castellet, but a couple of collisions - one of which ruled home hopes Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon out of the remainder - on a dramatic first lap led to the safety auto being deployed. Bottas was in a collision with Vettel and went to the back of the field.
Opting to start on the Ultrasoft tyre compared to the Briton and his teammate Valtteri Bottas on the front row, Sebastian Vettel made a much better launch from third on the grid and looked to challenge the two Mercedes drivers into Turn 1.
Lewis Hamilton has given the strongest indication yet that his new contract with Mercedes may finally be ready. The Dutchman endured a tough start to 2018 and faced heavy criticism following a run of high-profile incidents, although his recent form suggests he has turned a corner.
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While Hamilton was outspoken in his criticism of what he perceived as a lenient punishment for his rival, he was insistent that Vettel didn't deserve to be rebuked for the latest in an increasingly-long list of mistakes from the Ferrari driver. He was in the points on lap 10, and passed Sainz for fifth 10 laps later.
Ricciardo pitted for second after 28 laps, rejoining fifth behind the German, but it was clear Hamilton was enjoying his Sunday afternoon drive as he led Raikkonen, second, by 20 seconds. That is where he would remain.
But in a disastrous session for the under-pressure McLaren team, Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso were eliminated at the first hurdle - the team's worst result in a season on the cusp of turning ugly. "I am trying to do whatever. Every time I'm told of these records I'm blown away by Michael, even more and more", Hamilton said.
The former champions can still see no end to their immediate problems.
With less time for Ferrari's engineers to play catch up, Hamilton will hope to press his advantage at the Austrian and British races to open up a commanding lead in the championship fight. "I got a great response from the crowd and I'm delighted to be here for the first time", Hamilton said to reporters.
"It's a handsome Sunday, everyone".