Hamilton felt he had 'had victory in the bag' at Le Castellet

French Grand Prix race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates on the podium.
© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton admitted he hadn't really felt challenged during the latter half of the French Grand Prix this weekend.

He secured his 44th win in car #44 for Mercedes at Circuit Paul Ricard on Sunday, finishing seven seconds ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen after leading for all but one lap during the race.

"I had it in the bag for a long time," he told Sky Sports F1 after the finish. "Once I got in the lead, I got to about ten laps before my stop, I think, I turned [the engine] down a little bit.

"I'm always really conscious of the engine," he commented. "So whenever I can, if I can push a bit more and turn the engine down and make up for that time you lose from turning it down, I just do it in the driving. That's what I did today.

"Then I went back up because Max's pace was really good. And then after my stop I was able to run in quite a comfortable position. After that, I was never really challenged pace-wise," he said. "Max had decent pace, but I could maintain the gap at around five seconds.

"I feel very grateful, just grateful for a solid weekend," he continued, happy to put the recent struggles in Monaco and Montreal behind him.

"I enjoyed the race," he added. "The weather was good and the fans have been crazy today - it's been really good to see so many people here. Best French Grand Prix I've ever had!"

But Hamilton wasn't so happy about the way that his team mate Valtteri Bottas had been bumped out of the race at the first corner by Sebastian Vettel.

"Really unfortunate for Valtteri, I feel sorry for him. It should have been a one-two today," he said. "When you get taken out - you spend your whole weekend prepping and you get taken out the first corner and then that guy just gets a slap."

Vettel was handed a five second penalty for causing the collision but still ended up finishing the race ahead of Bottas after the pair fought their way back through the field.

"It's really costly for the team championship," he complained. "We lost a lot of valuable points today. Ferrari shouldn't have really come out with more points than us."

While Ferrari have indeed closed up to Mercedes in the constructors standings, Hamilton himself has moved back in the lead of the drivers standings by 14 points. However, he said it was still far too early to think about the title battle.

"Just one step at a time really, one race at a time," he said. "I hadn't really thought about it. But that's where I want to be! ... There's a long way to go and we'll keep approaching the rest of the season like we approached today."

Hamilton admitted that the build-up to the race had been distracted by everyone in the Mercedes garage keeping half an eye on England's progress in their World Cup match in Russia.

"It's a great day for England!" smiled Hamilton. "Super-proud of the boys. Everyone was watching. As I left the garage I saw it was 6-0 and I was like, 'Oh my God', that's awesome.

"Then I did the laps to the grid and came back and saw it was 6-1 and they had it in the bag," he added. "I was really happy for them and hope they can continue to perform like that."

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