Victory was seldom in doubt after the Mercedes driver avoided the worst of a chaotic start that saw title rival Sebastian Vettel clip Valtteri Bottas. Both drivers sustained damage in the collision, forcing them to pit early them and fall to the back of the grid.
Ferrari’s Vettel, who led the driver’s championship heading into Sunday’s race, was served a five second penalty but still managed to power his way back up the field to finish fifth.
Max Verstappen took second place in the Red Bull while Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen rounded off the podium places in third ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the other Red Bull.
Kevin Magnussen of Haas picked up sixth position while Bottas, in the second Mercedes, secured seventh.
Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg finished eighth and ninth respectively in the Renaults while Charles Leclerc of Sauber secured tenth and the final points position.
After consecutive races that saw comfortable wins for Ricciardo in Monaco and Vettel in Montreal, F1 fans were hoping for a little more unpredictability on a track few active drivers will have competed on previously.
The Circuit Paul Ricard near Marseille last hosted an F1 race 28 years ago, with all French GPs between 1991 and 2008 held at Magny-Cours in central France.
While there was a familiar face out in front as the action got underway, with Hamilton leading into turn one, the drama was unfolding in the Englishman’s rear-view mirror.
Vettel tapped Bottas, spinning the Mercedes driver and allowing Verstappen to move into second.
Vettel damaged his first wing and was forced into the pits alongside Bottas whose car suffered a puncture. That meant both drivers would be re-enter proceedings at the back of the race. However, the damage was limited by the deployment of the safety car after Pierre Gasly spun and hit Sebastian Ocon further back in the field, spreading debris across the track.
When the action re-commenced, Vettel began to the long road through the field.
Hamilton, however, never seemed troubled. The win, his first since topping the podium at the Spanish Grand Prix two races ago, moves him back above Vettel in at the summit of the driver’s championship standings.
More to follow …