On July 24, 2022, Formula 1 lands in France, at the famous Paul Ricard Circuit in Le Castellet. It is the twelfth round of the season, two weeks after the Austrian Grand Prix, eleventh race of the Championship, an intermission test of the season's calendar consisting of 22 races. This is the sixth overall race of the Championship in the old continent, the third consecutive to be held in Europe, as well as the third round in July. The contract for the French Grand Prix in the Formula 1 World Championship calendar, again at the Paul Ricard circuit, is valid until the end of the current season. Sponsor of the Grand Prix for this edition is, for the first time, the Chinese multinational Lenovo. Around 205.000 spectators are expected over the course of the race weekend, and this represents an all-time record for the French Grand Prix. Present in the calendar of the Formula 1 World Championship since the inaugural edition of 1950, and valid as proof of the category from the same year, the French Grand Prix, together with those of Monaco, Switzerland, Belgium, Great Britain and Italy, was one of the tests that characterized the calendar of the inaugural edition of the Formula 1 World Championship. The Paul Ricard Circuit for seventeen times, on three different configurations, the most recent of which in use by the category since 2018, has been the venue of the race and was used for the first time in the 1971 season. It is only behind the Nevers Magny-Cours Circuit, who saw the dispute of eighteen number of editions between 1991 and 2008. During the F1 history, the French Grand Prix was raced in different locations: the Reims circuit hosted the race eleven times between 1950 and 1966, followed by five editions each from the Rouen-Les Essarts circuit between 1952 and 1968 and from the Dijon circuit between 1974 and 1984, together with four editions on the Clermont-Ferrand circuit between 1965 and 1972 and one on the Bugatti circuit in 1967 . The Grand Prix did not take place in 1955, as it was canceled due to the Le Mans disaster (happened during the 24 Hours), the most serious accident in the history of motoring, and between 2009 and 2017, when it was announced that the race would no longer take place on the Nevers Magny-Cours circuit.
In the absence of other credible candidates, the French Grand Prix was not included in the calendar of those seasons and returned to be part of it in 2018 at the headquarters of Le Castellet. The 2020 edition was canceled, along with numerous other Grand Prix, due to the health emergency dictated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Starting from this Grand Prix, initially, the technical directive against the hopping of cars on the straight advanced by the Federation in the previous races should have been operational. In fact, on the eve of the Canadian Grand Prix, the World Motoring Body launched an investigation to study how dangerous the hopping of cars on the straight is for the drivers, not only for safety on track, but also for the repercussions on the body. The jolts were particularly pronounced on the long straight of the Baku circuit during the Azerbaijani Grand Prix, causing more than one concern for the drivers, in particular for Lewis Hamilton, who suffered from severe back pain caused by jumping. The Federation decided to have a complete picture about this, consulting medical specialists and collecting data from other series, for example from the rally. A technical directive has been issued, which explains that in the interest of safety it is necessary to intervene to ask the teams to make the necessary changes to reduce or eliminate this phenomenon of hopping. In detail, the World Motoring Body has decided to intervene on some points, such as a more careful control of the car bottom and the definition of a metric, based on the vertical acceleration of the car, which provides a quantitative limit for the acceptable level of vertical oscillations. A meeting with the teams has also been announced. During the Canadian Grand Prix, the Federation limited itself to collecting data in the third free practice session on Saturday, without applying penalties given the short time left available to the teams. After the data were collected, on the eve of the British Grand Prix, the Federation informed the teams that the directive is active starting from that Grand Prix. Were also established some new parameters regarding the wear of the bottom and the stiffness of the central skate that the teams must respect. Before the Austrian Grand Prix, it was established that the operation of the technical directive has been moved from this race to the Belgian Grand Prix, which will be held at the end of August after the three-week summer break.
Some teams, however, threaten legal action against the Federation regarding the knot of interventions on the hopping of the cars and on the flat bottom, with the technical directives introduced for safety reasons. The vote, not required by the rules as the actions has been motivated by a safety urgency, which would normally have required a majority of eight teams to be approved. A few days after the dispute of the Austrian Grand Prix, was held a meeting of the technical advisory committee, in the presence of the Federation, the Formula 1 teams and their technical directors. In the various points that emerged during the meeting, it is has been stated that the problem seems to be quite absent during the last races, but it must be considered that they took place in circuits where this effect was lower than the average. In the future races, surely the problem will be again there. Even if the teams are understanding how to keep the problem under control, on 2023, when the cars will have even more downforce, it will be likely to have a worsening of the fluctuations, so the short-term measures put in place for the Belgian Grand Prix, scheduled for late August, are not a long-term solution. The metric that quantifies the vertical oscillations must therefore remain below the prescribed values. The teams will use this metric already in this Grand Prix to understand the implications on the set-up of their cars. In the meeting an agreement was reached between the team and the Federation to tighten the load tests on the roll bar, after the serious accident occurred to the Chinese driver of Alfa Romeo, Zhou Guanyu, during the British Grand Prix, in which this component collapsed with the impact on the asphalt following the overturning of the car. Furthermore, the Federation is preparing to strengthen the procedures to ensure that the deformation of the flat bottom complies with the requirements of the regulation. The intent is to strengthen the current verification procedures on a component whose deformation on previous cars was less influential and whose control tests were therefore not free from imperfections.
The main points are the 25 mm rise of the side edges of the car bottom, the increase in the height of the diffuser keel, present under the bottom, the introduction of stricter tests of lateral deflection of the bottom and the introduction of a more precise sensor to help quantify aerodynamic oscillations. The French Grand Prix marks an important milestone for Lewis Hamilton, as this is the 300th Grand Prix he takes part in in the history of the category, after making his debut in the 2007 Australian Grand Prix with McLaren, and becoming since then the most successful driver in the history of the world, together with the German Michael Schumacher. Hamilton won seven world titles, including one with the British team in 2008 and six with the German team in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, through 103 wins, 103 pole positions, 186 podiums, 60 fastest laps, 19 Hat tricks, 6 Grand Chelems, 173 front row starts, 178 times he led a race, 259 points finishes, 17.093 laps completed which equate to 86.045 km traveled, 27 retreats, 4274.5 points and 5404 laps conducted in the lead which correspond to 27.518 km. He has become the sixth driver to reach the 300 races in the history of the category, after the Finnish Kimi Räikkönen with 349, the Spanish Fernando Alonso with 344, the Brazilian Rubens Barrichello with 322, the British Jenson Button and the German Michael Schumacher with a total of 306 Grands Prix. Hamilton took part in all the Grand Prixs, except for the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, being replaced by George Russell, due to the positivity to SARS-CoV-2. This is a weekend of farewells and new alliances, and the Federation announces that the previous referee, the Australian Michael Masi, active from 2019 and 2021 to replace Charlie Whiting, will be replaced from this Championship by two referees, the German Niels Wittich and the Portuguese Eduardo Freitas, after the episodes that occurred during the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Masi leaves the World Motoring Body. At the same time, Formula 1 and the Spanish brand Santander join forces to offer their common experience in business, innovation and sustainability to support the next generation of entrepreneurs.
As part of a promotional partnership, the category expands the Santander X Global Challenge | Countdown to Zero competition which challenges entrepreneurs to create sustainable solutions for the future. In addition, the Public Investment Fund, a Saudi fund, joins the British team Aston Martin as the second shareholder, acquiring a stake of just under 17%, in an attempt to rescue the team from the economic crisis. The manufacturer celebrates its centenary in terms of commitment to motor racing, whose first racing car model debuted in France in 1922. Ferrari, on the other hand, is setting up a new partnership with Frecciarossa, while Williams is the only one not to have signed the charter for diversity and inclusion, which commits every single team to take measures to take concrete steps forward in this field. For this Grand Prix, Pirelli, the sole tire supplier, offers a choice between C2, C3 and C4 compound tires, the type of tires that characterize the central range of the kind of tires made available by the Italian company, for the first time since the dispute of the first edition of the Miami Grand Prix, at the beginning of May. From the 2019 edition of the Grand Prix, except for the 2020 edition canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Italian company has always mentioned the same type. The Federation establishes the two traditional zones of the Drag Reduction System in use since the 2018 edition of the Grand Prix. The first zone is set between curves 7 and 8, with the point of determination of the gap between the drivers placed before curve 7, while the second is located on the main straight of the pits, with the detection point positioned at curve 14. The Federation also announces that at the end of the previous Austrian Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo's McLaren was drawn among the top ten cars for technical checks. The inspections covered the complete fuel supply system, including its piping, its drainage system, its hydraulic arrangement and related wiring and sensors. All components inspected were found to comply with the technical regulations.
Compared to the 2021 edition of the Grand Prix, the Paul Ricard Circuit has been subject to some changes. A layer of gravel has been added at the exit of Turn 7. A new panel dedicated to signaling the obstruction of the entrance to the pit lane has been installed, with a speed inside established at 60 km/h for this lane in this race, unlike the normal 80 km/h as by regulation. The escape route at Turn 2 has been re-leveled. The speed limiter deactivation zone inside the pit lane has been moved 90 meters further for safety reasons: this had consequences for the drivers and teams, creating discontent.The times of pit stops are in fact lengthened by about four seconds, a number that has put out any strategy calculations made before Thursday, thus encouraging the teams, potentially, to make only one stop. Furthermore, the drivers have less speed when exiting the pits and therefore it is more difficult for them to defend their position at Turn 1. The Federation establishes that during the qualifying and the race if a driver does not take the exit of Turn 10 correctly, he will see that lap time and the next one canceled by the race direction. Then, if a driver fails to make Turn 2 and passes completely to the right of the first fluorescent yellow bollard at the apex of the curve, he must keep completely to the right of the fluorescent yellow bollard and rejoin the track by driving through the two rows of blocks passing to the right of the first and to the left of the second. If a driver fails to take Turn 4 and passes completely to the left of the fluorescent yellow bollard at the apex of the curve, he must remain completely to the left of the fluorescent yellow bollard and rejoin the track driving to the left of the block of polystyrene placed at turn 5. If a driver goes straight to Turn 8 he must return to the track by driving through the four rows of blocks placed in the escape route, to the left of the first, to the right of the second, to the left of the third and to the right of the fourth.
Before the start of the first free practice session on Friday, the instruction previously established by the race direction in place during qualifying and the race in which if a driver would not have completed correctly the exit of Turn 10 would be seen that lap time and the next one is canceled by the stewards. Talking about the cars, we can say that the third unit for the turbocharger and MGU-H has been installed on Lewis Hamilton's car, and the second unit for the energy recovery system and electronic control unit. The second unit relating to the energy recovery system and the electronic control unit has been installed on George Russell's car, and the second unit relating to the energy recovery system on Zhou Guanyu's car. On the car of Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, respectively the fourth and third unit relating to the exhaust system have been installed. All these drivers are not penalized on the starting grid as the new components installed are among those usable in the maximum number established by the technical regulations. The second unit relating to the energy recovery system and the third unit relating to the electronic control unit have been installed on Carlos Sainz’ car. The Spanish Ferrari driver is penalized by ten positions on the starting grid as the second new component installed exceeds those that can be used in the maximum number established by the technical regulations. For this Grand Prix the FIA appoints the Portuguese Eduardo Freitas as race director. Former Formula 1 driver Vitantonio Liuzzi is appointed assistant commissioner. The Italian man has held this function in the past on several occasions, the last during the Spanish Grand Prix. Former Brazilian driver of the category Enrique Bernoldi was initially designated, who was additional commissioner for the last time in the previous Austrian Grand Prix. It is the British car manufacturer Mercedes that supplies the safety car and the medical car. On Thursday, Daniel Ricciardo says to be satisfied with the points obtained in Austria:
“Enchante! I'm looking forward to the French Grand Prix in Le Castellet this weekend. It's an open track with long straights and some interesting corners like Turn 11 which can be physically challenging. Small margins make a big difference and at this stage of the season it's important we remain consistent with positive results. I was pleased to be back in the points in Austria and we'll continue to work hard to build momentum with more points in France before heading to Hungary in the double-header".
His teammate, Lando Norris analyzes the race in Austria, which started uphill during free practice but went better on Sunday. Furthermore, he compares the Austrian circuit with the French one and analyzes the possible performances obtainable in this new race weekend:
"With the summer break fast approaching, it's important we continue to build on our results this season as the midfield gets tighter. Finishing P7 and P9 in Austria was positive after a difficult start to the weekend and it's great to remain in this battle for fourth in the constructor standings. Going back to a standard race weekend format in France should give us the opportunity to improve over the free practice sessions, something we didn't have available to us at Austria's sprint. There is a lot of work to still do but we will continue to push hard on track and secure more points like we did as a team at Paul Ricard last year".
Andreas Seidl, McLaren’s Team Principal, says:
“We're now past the halfway point of the season and after a pleasing result in Austria with both drivers scoring points, everybody in the team is working hard to give us the best chance to continue positive results at the upcoming double-header in France and Hungary. The French Grand Prix at Circuit Paul Ricard offers a number of opportunities for racing and last year's results were good for the team with Lando and Daniel finishing P5 and P6 respectively. The track is known for its long Mistral straight, but there are also some challenging corners around the track including Turns Eight and Nine which require a strong exit before heading into Turns 10 and 11. As always the team back at the factory and at the track are determined to make the most of the weekend, before the final race ahead of shut down in Hungary".
In Williams Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance, confirms the positive feedback received as a result of the updates introduced on the two single-seaters of the team:
“Having introduced some new parts to Alex's car over the last couple of races, we are now in a position where both cars can run with the upgrades. Although the weather in Silverstone, and the Sprint format in Austria were not ideal for testing, we have seen enough encouraging feedback to be confident that we have taken a step forward. With the weather likely to be warm, dry and stable this weekend, we'll look to use Friday's running to get Nicky up to speed with the new parts and also to continue to understand how best to exploit the performance of the new package. For this event, Pirelli have brought the middle of their compound range, a combination that we used frequently at the start of the season, most recently in Miami. The next two races will also use these compounds and so it is important that we reacquaint ourselves with this combination quickly. The circuit was resurfaced ahead of last year's event and, in damp conditions, led to some tire graining. We will need to see exactly how the surface has aged in the last 12 months, but this process and the better weather forecast for this year should mean that graining is much less of an issue. Instead, the high track temperatures and high circuit energy is likely to lead to tire overheating, which will need to be managed during the race. This time of the season - the second consecutive back-to-back pair of races - is a very busy period of the year for everyone. The introduction of a major upgrade has challenged the whole team, but this challenge has been met with enthusiasm and professionalism and, as a result, we head into the final races before the summer shutdown in a good position and ready to push on into the second half of the season".
Nicholas Latifi says to be thrilled to be back on the French circuit:
“I'm super excited to get to France because it's the first race where I'm going to have the upgrade package. We've seen some positive signs from it on Alex's car so far, so I'm looking forward to getting my first taste. Hopefully it can bring us that extra bit of relative pace that we've missed and put us more in the fight. France has a unique track layout with lots of run-off areas, so track limits might be a bit of an issue as it was in Austria. More than anything I'm looking forward to continuing the development of the car and hopefully we can get some good data going forward".
The enthusiasm is also shared by Alex Albon, who declares:
“I'm looking forward to France now that we have Austria under our belt and more information and data available for the team to analyze. Hopefully we can keep pushing and working on the car, exploiting its performance and get a good result in France. The track is quite a mixed circuit with generally medium to high speed corners, so will be a good opportunity for us to see what the car can do".
In AlphaTauri Pierre Gasly declares:
“Austria turned out to be a weekend to forget, so I am particularly keen to go racing again at Ricard. Qualifying at the Red Bull Ring was okay, we were just outside the top ten on a track we knew would be complicated for us. But after that, the Sprint Races have unfortunately never gone well for us. On Sunday, I had an incident and we didn't have the performance level we needed to fight, while getting two penalties didn't help of course. But I always prefer to look ahead and I'm hoping things will get much better with the updates we will have on the car this weekend. They are mainly on the aero-side and they should deliver a real step up in performance, so I'm keen to try them out at Ricard, in the hope that they can put us back in the fight for points. It's a special weekend as it's my home race, particularly this year as there is some uncertainty over the future of the French Grand Prix. We are not sure if it stays on the calendar or not for next year, so I want to enjoy the moment and share it with all my fans, supporters and French F1 racing enthusiasts. In fact, we've organized a special Gasly grandstand at the chicane on the back straight for my fans. It's nice to be able to do something a bit more personal and to connect with them a bit more than usual. It's going to be a good atmosphere and I hope we can perform well enough to deliver a good result in front of the French crowd".
Yuki Tsunoda he continues:
“Austria was one of the most difficult race weekends of the season so far and probably the Sprint format made it even worse. I know it's the same for everyone, but it meant we did not have much time for long-run work prior to the race. Our Quali performance level was okay, but we had no pace in the Sprint. On the positive side, I was satisfied with my approach to the race and with my concentration level, avoiding any track limits mistakes, so that was a good step for me. I've raced a few times at Paul Ricard, in Euro-Formula and Formula 3 and last year's Grand Prix was quite difficult for me, as I had to start from pit lane after getting it wrong in Qualifying. It's a track where you need a set-up that works well in mid-speed corners and it can be quite tricky because you have the high-speed straight and Signes corner, but also low and medium-speed turns at the end of sectors 1 and 3. Normally, this would highlight some weak points in our car, but we will have updates in France so hopefully that won't be the case anymore. It's really time we return to getting into Q3 to make it easier to score points on Sunday. We've gone for a major upgrade rather than lots of small ones. The new upgrade is focused on adding more load to the car, as we were quite weak in the medium to high-speed corners. Hopefully, it will bring us more consistency and allow us to fight at the top of the midfield again".
It is evident the Mercedes’ improvement, confirmed from Toto Wolff himself:
“Third and fourth in Austria was a satisfying result for the whole team, particularly given the position we were in on Friday evening. The team worked miracles to have two complete race cars ready for the Sprint and Grand Prix. 27 points on Sunday were a good reward for that effort. We scored three podiums in the first seven races, and we have now achieved four in the last four. I'm pleased with the momentum we are building, and it reflects the mammoth effort of the team. Our understanding of the W13 is growing with every lap and it's encouraging to see that reflected in our development and results. While we were quicker in Austria, we still weren't quick enough to challenge at the front. We need to keep chasing those final few tenths and bringing new developments to the cars, including this weekend in France. Paul Ricard is a very different track and challenge. It has smooth tarmac and a wide range of corner types, along with long straights. The aim will be to make further inroads on the gap to the front and hopefully be back on the podium. Nyck is replacing Lewis in first practice this weekend, as part of the allocated sessions for young drivers this year. So , we're looking forward to seeing how he gets on".
The Paul Ricard Circuit has always represented a challenge for drivers, thanks to the numerous straights in which it is possible to reach part of the top speeds of all the F1 World Championships. Are of this opinion also the Aston Martin pilots, Lance Stroll in fact argues:
"Paul Ricard is quite a challenging circuit, with a variety of corners and some long, winding sections towards the end of the lap. The ground-effect cars we have this year appear to be producing better racing, so I hope we can put on a good show for the fans here. It is a special event for the team with Aston Martin's 100th anniversary celebrations, so hopefully we will be able to come away with a good result this weekend".
Sebastian Vettel adds:
“Paul Ricard's high-speed corners should gain an added dimension with these ground-effect cars, and the lower-speed corners will provide a challenge for everybody. The previous weekends have not always been kind to us for one reason or another, so it would be nice to pick up some momentum before the summer break. Finally, I am passionate about the history of the sport, so it will be really special to drive one of Aston Martin's original 1922 Grand Prix cars this weekend".
At Alpine, the team principal Otmar Szafnauer claims:
“It's always exciting when it's a home Grand Prix, and we're looking forward to flying the French flag on home soil at Circuit Paul Ricard this weekend. Racing at any Grand Prix is special but when it's in front of a home crowd, it just makes the experience even more enjoyable and humbling. It makes all the staff at Alpine very proud to be part of a Formula 1 team and we're aiming to do everyone proud on track this weekend. Again, we've demonstrated that we're competitive, even if it was not a perfect weekend. We're working hard on not only short-term fixes but also long-term solutions to prevent the issues we experienced in Austria from coming up again. Our most recent performance in Austria last weekend was a good benchmark on the improvements we've made this season. We're tied for fourth on points in the championship and now the next step is to solidify that spot, and that means executing clean weekends with regular points from both cars. We have back-to-back Grands Prix coming up and it's important we come away with strong finishes from both of those to tighten our grip before the summer break and that's our collective focus point right now".
Esteban Ocon continues:
"There isn't a feeling quite like racing in your own country and seeing the passion of the home fans when arriving to the circuit, or, in the grandstands when driving past. I'll also have my own grandstand this weekend which is a first for me and a dream come true. I know the atmosphere will be amazing in the 'Esteban Ocon Grandstand' and throughout the grounds in what is a sold-out race weekend. It's always special going back to Le Castellet , a track we all know well. It's a circuit famous for its mix of high-speed straights and the demanding sequences of low and medium-speed corners. The low-speed section heading onto the Mistral straight is tight and requires a flexible set-up on the car. Then you have the faster, more technical section from Signes until the last corner which is quite demanding on the tires . Qualifying is important here and getting the set-up right for Saturday afternoon will be key. I enjoyed the days off after Austria, but I am ready to jump back in the A522 and get my home Grand Prix weekend started".
Fernando Alonso concludes:
"It's always fun to race in front of the French fans. Half of the team is based in France and so it's good to have a home race for us at Circuit Paul Ricard. It's a fun track and whilst I've raced at various French race circuits, I've only competed here twice before in Formula 1. It's a challenging circuit to get the car setup right, with quite a few high-speed sections followed by various low and medium speed corners. We seemed quite competitive at various circuits this year, so hopefully we can keep this up at Paul Ricard. I feel I am physically driving better than ever! Luck has been our biggest issue. It has often escaped us at crucial moments this season. If we can turn this around and get the luck that we deserve as a team, then I'm confident we can score big points and start to climb both drivers 'and constructors' standings".
In Alfa Romeo, the Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur claims to have found the motivation right to regain the positions lost in the last two races. The motivation shared by the rest of the team:
"We come to France with the motivation to put ourselves back where we belong after two rather difficult back-to-back races in Silverstone and Spielberg. We did not manage to score any points in these outings, but the team has been working hard to understand the causes of our performance and we are confident we can get back to the level we have been enjoying this season so far. The midfield is getting tighter and closer race after race and this is producing some hugely entertaining battles, but our objective is to finish on top of this scrap. We finished just outside the top ten in Austria, and to improve on that should be our starting point for this weekend. In 2021, the Paul Ricard saw plenty of overtakes on track, which should be a good indication for this year's cars. As always, we must be at our very best and be ready for any challenge, to keep up with the good performances we have showed so far and be able to add points to our tally at the end of the weekend".
Valtteri Bottas claims:
"Paul Ricard is a circuit I have quite enjoyed in the past years, having also collected a podium finish here in 2019. It's not too far from where I live, so it has almost a bit of a home race feeling for me. We know we have to keep our confidence high: our target this weekend, just like any other, is to bring home a good result. I was disappointed to finish just outside the points in Spielberg, but the positive was a good recovery from a pitlane start and some good battles. The midfield fight is going to be once again very close and, just as last year, when we had some pretty good overtakes, the race should be an entertaining one. We need to put our focus onto doing our best job on track and get back where we belong: in the points".
The French circuit is also known well by Zhou Guanyu, who states:
"I have raced on this track in 2016, in F3, and in 2019, in F2, but F1 will be completely different on such a circuit: once again, this weekend everything will be mostly brand new for me, and I cannot wait to get started. There is a bit of a feeling of unfinished business after the last back-to-back, and I think we definitely did not get what we deserved in the last couple of races. I think we have a chance to do well here, and get back to the performance levels we have shown in Canada, scoring the points we have been missing for a few races now. Competition, as usual, will be high, but we are ready to get on track and give our very best".
Charles Leclerc, who is fighting for the world title, declares:
"We are ready to race in these extreme conditions as the heat is nearly always a factor. Last year the temperatures were also very high and we struggled quite a lot with the tires, but I think we learned a from last year's race and we have made a lot of progress with tire management. This year we want to fight at the front. It's a question that's typical of modern Formula 1. In the old days, there used to be gravel traps and so you knew not to go there... But these are the rules for everyone and they have to be respected. For sure, with the limited visibility we have from the cockpit, it's better when the sensors are in the kerbs , because at least you feel it when you drive over them, but when you are dealing with the white lines, it's really difficult".
Carlos Sainz comments instead the high temperatures that characterize the Paul Ricard circuit in this period of the year and states how they can represent a big one obstacle for the performance of the drivers:
"As usual, at the very hot races, I hydrate enough before getting in the car and then, as always we will concentrate on the work that awaits us over the weekend. We are only at the halfway point of the season and there are still a lot of possibilities. Our car is very strong and its performance continues to improve. I am ready for an attacking race".
Guenther Steiner, Haas’ Team Principal, expresses words of encouragement for his own team:
"I'm very happy about it for the team because I've told them that they need to believe in themselves because we've done it before and we will do it again, and we have so it's a very good result . I think we have to be careful about getting too overenthusiastic for the next races, so we're not thinking that this will keep continuing easily - this is very hard work from a lot of people. We will do the best we can and hopefully we can get some more points and have quite a relaxed summer break".
About the Austrian GP, he says:
"I would say it's an almost perfect weekend, there's always margin to do better in racing until you win everything, but nobody wins everything all of the time. It was a very good weekend and everything was executed as best as we could, there were no real mistakes, nothing done wrong. Every little step can be better so we move up and one day, hopefully coming soon, we'll get a podium. To pull this together it's a bunch of people working hard, there's no secret, it's just everybody doing their job".
Regarding the seventh position of the Constructors’ Championship and the points lost during the beginning of the season , Steiner declares:
"I don't want to get ahead of myself, but if we can keep seventh, or to end up sixth - it would be nice. I think anything above sixth will be very difficult because the other teams are very good and they're a little bit far ahead, if we can keep on going as we are going, obviously we will not have the perfect race weekends like the last two with both cars scoring points, but we just need to keep on working hard and maybe we can achieve sixth. First of all, we need to make sure that we stay seventh".
The versatility of the VF-22 potentially makes the Haas a suitable car to compete for an excellent position in the French GP:
"For sure, motivation is very high within the team after two weekends like we had in Silverstone and Austria. Our car is pretty good everywhere, I think our weakest point is high-speed tracks like those in Jeddah and Baku and coming up in Spa and Monza. I'm very confident that if we execute well, we can have points again. I don't know how many but the reliability in the last two races was good and hopefully it will stay good for the next events before the summer".
Kevin Magnussen, about his own return to the French GP, argues:
"France is a pretty unique circuit because it's very flat, it's quite wide in places and you have a lot of run off. It feels different driving there compared to other tracks. We had a good result back in 2018 and it's always nice going back to places where you've had good experiences in the past, so I'm hoping for more good results".
Magnussen says to be extremely satisfied to come back here and remembers the excellent result obtained in 2018:
"France is a pretty unique circuit because it's very flat, it's quite wide in places and you have a lot of run off. It feels different driving there compared to other tracks. We had a good result back in 2018 and it's always nice going back to places where you've had good experiences in the past, so I'm hoping for more good results. It's been a while now since I've raced a Formula 1 car around there so in FP1 I'm going to find my rhythm again and on this track with all the run off there's no real risk from going straight out and pushing, so I 'll be doing that".
The French race is a of the latest ones that the Haas team will race with the current one package of the VF-22:
"It will likely be one of, or the last race we do with this package before getting the upgrades so we're sort of at the end of the life of this package but there is still stuff that we're finding out, but it's obviously getting less and less every race. The gains we are finding are becoming less but we'll still be looking to find whatever gains we can and extract the most out of what we've got".
The Danish driver states how much stressful the latest races were:
"At this stage, it's good to have as many races as possible for my fitness. My fitness is pretty good now, just when I'm in the gym or working out but when I'm in the car it's all neck basically - 80/20 neck. Having all those races close together is very good for building that neck strength".
Mick Schumacher, just like the rest of the drivers, comments favorably the return to the Paul Ricard:
"For sure it's a track where usually you have the opportunity to push quite hard just because you know that you can go over a certain limit sometimes. It's one of those tracks where you can push harder than other tracks just because you know you have the run off and the chances of you getting near a wall is quite slim. Obviously, if you do a mistake, it's quite bad for the tires so you obviously don't want to do it in an important session, but definitely it's a track that is quite interesting. It can be confusing at times due to all the different lines, so it's not just viewers that get confused, it can also be the drivers too".
On potential of the VF-22 he argues:
"We're always trying to improve our car or we're always trying to adapt our car to different places. I think we understand our package pretty well but we're still trying to maximize it further and learn more from it and see how we can make it quicker. I don't think Paul Ricard is a special track to do that, it's a track like any other track. We have fewer quick corners there - there's just one quick corner - which is usually flat anyways in any downforce, so it's a matter of exploiting the speeds on a straight which we haven't been great at this year. I imagine it's going to be tough but in a Formula 1 race there is always a lot of action. Sometimes it can be quiet, and we are where we are, and sometimes there's a lot of action and you can get through. We'll just have to wait and see how the weekend develops and how we get on".
The French GP has always been a lucky race for him, as right here he managed to enter Q2 for the first time in his career during qualifying:
"Obviously I feel more experienced, I feel a bit more complete but there's still a long way to go. It's only my second year, there's so much more to learn in Formula 1 besides racing and every day I try to exploit that to see where I can improve and where I still feel like I need work".
He also comments about the four consecutive races held in the month of July:
"I think everybody would like to have more free time but at the end of the day, this is our job. I feel like even if we're not at a race weekend, we're always ready to work. It's not as consistent as a 9-5 job but it varies, it's a daily job".
There are therefore many variables that can affect the performance of single-seaters during the race and one of them is the tire wear. In this regard, Mario Isola, Motorsport Director, declares:
“This year's French Grand Prix takes place nearly a month later than it did last year, when it rained on Sunday morning, so it's fair to expect warmer temperatures. This year's generation of tires and compounds is different and more resistant to overheating than the 13-inch versions used last year, so we'll have to see how that affects the strategy. A bit of history: Paul Ricard was actually where our 18-inch tires for the current era made their debut, at a test with Renault and Sergey Sirotkin back in 2019".
On Friday, with Ferrari in great shape after the win in Austria, another great battle is expected, as the defending world champion wants to retain the title of ‘French king’. Charles Leclerc means business from the beginning: under a bright sun the Ferrari driver sets the fastest lap of FP1 with a time of 1’33"930, edging Max Verstappen by just 0.091s. The current World Champion precedes Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari. Having replaced the control electronics unit on his car, Sainz will receive a 10-place grid penalty. The Spaniard is ahead of Russell and Pierre Gasly, remarkably 5th after having some technical issues with his Alpha Tauri. A struggling Sergio Pérez ends the first free practice session in P6 after a spin at turn 3-4 and a cut of the turn 8-9 chicane. Another remarkable performance is provided by Mercedes reserve driver and defending Formula E champion Nick de Vries, who finishes 9th after taking Hamilton’s seat during FP1. A similar opportunity is given to Robert Kubica: the Polish driver returns behind the wheel of Alfa Romeo’s F1 car after this year’s winter test and places 19th ahead of Nicholas Latifi. The rest of the top 10 is composed of Norris (7th), who has some early issues with his throttle pedal, Albon, De Vries, and Ricciardo, who goes wide at turn 12 after a lock-up. Another hot session for the drivers here in France. FP2 is crucial on Friday, as teams test both their qualifying and race pace. And that is exactly how this FP2 begins: after the first instalment laps things start to get serious. Ferrari and Red Bull are the last teams to hit the track but, as soon as they do, they show clear superiority over everyone else. Both Ferraris are particularly at ease in their qualifying simulation and Carlos Sainz shows great speed around Le Castellet and sets the fastest time of the session in 1'32"527. Leclerc places second (+0.101s) and cannot quite match his teammate’s pace. Both F1-75s have a new floor to suit the characteristics of the circuit that seems to work well, especially on a flying lap. On the contrary, Red Bull is still struggling to find the right balance and Verstappen is third with a gap of more than half a second (+0.550s). His teammate’s situation is even worse. But if Pérez (10th at the end of the session) strives to find performance in every condition, during race simulation the RB-18 comes back to life with Verstappen, and the Dutchman shows a very strong pace (1’37"0), consistently faster than both ‘men in red’ (1’38"0). This time, both Mercedes are right behind the best, within less than a second from Sainz, with Russell and Hamilton in 4th and 5th position respectively. Lando Norris takes the title of ‘best of the rest’ placing 6th with his McLaren:
"A reasonable day. It’s been a day of trying the new parts on the car and trying to understand them and figure them out for tomorrow. I think we’ve done that. The pace of the car and the handling’s in a reasonable position - but also a bit different between the old package and the new package. There’s still some adapting to do with my driving and so on, so a bit more potential to move forward tomorrow. We’ll have a look this evening, figure it out and see what we can improve on for Saturday".
Same ups and downs for Daniel Ricciardo:
"We were trying quite a bit today with some updates to the car and I’d say we are still trying to figure out the best way to set the car up with it, so still learning. I think looking at the positions, both cars in the top 10 is obviously not too bad – but I do think there’s still quite a lot to come from that. I think we’ve still certainly got some more in it. We’ll just try to fine-tune it and understand a bit more tonight. I think we feel ok about today but there’s quite a bit more to get out of it so we will get out there tomorrow and have a bit more fun".
James Key, McLaren’s Technical Executive Director, explains:
"It’s been a reasonably productive day. During FP1 Daniel ran our new development package that we have brought for this event, working on gathering track data and dialling the mechanical set-up in to compliment the updated aero spec. Lando stayed on the previous spec of car to give us a useful reference point and worked on general set-up and tyres during FP1, moving to the new bodywork spec for FP2 to give a rough back-to-back. There is still much to analyse and learn from all the data we have acquired today, but initial driver feedback has been positive and informative which is a good start point. We will continue to work on understanding the influence of the aero updates run today and hope to further optimise our cars for tomorrow's running".
The introduction of the fourth power unit (that will be mounted on the F1-75 on Saturday) means that Carlos Sainz will have to start his race from the back of the grid, a tough challenge both for him and for his teammate Leclerc, who will have to fight against Verstappen without backup. However, the Spaniard does not lose his positive attitude as the car has shown a very convincing performance:
"It has been a positive day. The updates seem to work well and the car felt good, especially on the flying laps. The long runs were a bit more challenging due to the graining. For sure, today’s high temperatures were an important factor to consider, but we need to look carefully into how we can protect the tyres as much as possible. Given I’ll take a penalty on Sunday, we now need to focus on preparing the car for the race. There is room for improvement, so we’ll keep digging".
Charles Leclerc is sporting a special helmet lid covered with photographs from his racing career in a way to thank all the people that helped him from the early karting days up to his debut in Formula One. His French colleagues have also brought new liveries to honour their home race, and even though he is from Monaco, his motoring roots can be traced in France, where he started his racing career. Like Sainz, Leclerc is enthusiastic about how his Friday went:
"The sessions went quite well today. Our qualifying pace was pretty good, so our focus now will be on our race pace. Tyre management will be key, as the temperatures are so high this weekend. I am confident that we will be all set by the time Sunday comes as we know where we need to improve".
A special weekend for Sir Lewis Hamilton, who celebrates his 300th Grand Prix, a milestone that few fellow racing drivers have reached during their careers. The Brit has only had one session on Friday to get acquainted with the car, as Formula E champion Nick de Vries has replaced him in FP1:
"Nyck did a strong job this morning, he was great out there and I'm grateful for the work he did. We made some changes from FP1 to FP2 which is crazy considering I haven't even driven the car yet. We still have a lot of work to do, we're not spectacular here and I don't know why, so hopefully overnight, we can make a little bit of a step forward as we're further behind than what we anticipated for this weekend. We need to dig deep into the data, but it looks like were lacking downforce today. It wasn't the best session for me, mostly because I missed the first one. I tried to get up to speed, but it was very hot here and there are a lot of slow laps so overall, I think I did alright".
The Dutchman talks about the chance he has been given by Mercedes:
"I'm very grateful for the opportunity, it was a great experience. Obviously, it was very cool to be back in such a fast car and a bit of a reset of what I'm used to. All in all, a great session and great opportunity. We went through all test items and managed to do quite a bit of work for the team. It was a good session, it felt quickly on the pace and I felt comfortable with the car. The team was very supportive, and we got the information that we needed. Lewis was amazing and also very supportive. I also had Angela by my side as well which was really sweet. So overall a very productive session".
George Russell has enjoyed quite a smooth Friday, despite a rough run on the kerb outside of turn 2 in FP2. The former Formula 2 champion has placed 4th in both practice sessions:
"It was quite enjoyable to be back out there at this track as it's quite a fun one in certain aspects. Some teams struggled more than others with the high temperatures. We only did five consecutive laps but we're also probably a bit further off the pace than what we had hoped for. We have work to do tonight here at the track and back at the factories. There's a lot to go over and we need to make sure we can optimise our pace for tomorrow. From the running today, it looks like we're finding time but all the other teams keep bringing updates too, and the whole grid moves forward. So, although we're finding time, our competitors do as well. And we need to look at the data to see if our upgrades are working as sometimes it's not as simple as just seeing it on the lap charts".
Andrew Shovlin tells the press how Mercedes’s Friday went:
"Firstly, Nyck did a great job for us in the morning session. Considering how little time he's had in the car, it was impressive how quick and consistent he was. We used the session to get through a test programme varying the car specification each run and we've acquired some useful learning on the back of it. George was evaluating some update parts through the first session and wasn't particularly happy with the balance of the car but managed to get it closer to his liking in the afternoon. This is the first time that one of the race drivers has had to sit out an FP1 session and Lewis had his work cut out trying to recover the lost time - he wasn't particularly happy with where the car was and we need to work on that overnight, but we've got a pretty good idea of where we want to go on setup. For one reason and another, we didn't get as much work done on high fuel as we'd have liked so we don't really know how we compare to RedBull and Ferrari but we do at least look closer to them than to the midfield. We're not expecting to be on their pace tomorrow, both those teams looks like they are very strong on a single lap, especially Ferrari but hopefully we can get a bit closer in the race on Sunday".
Despite a promising 2nd and 3rd place in Friday’s free practice, Max Verstappen does not seem too satisfied with his overall performance. After suffering a bit from oversteer during FP2, the Dutchman has been able to challenge Ferrari still seriously on race pace:
"I think FP2 was a little bit more difficult for us than FP1 as we didn’t get the balance that we had hoped for. We were also trying different things with the car. We’ll have a look at it all overnight and of course try to be quicker tomorrow. I think the long run is better but the tyres are running really hot so it’s difficult to judge where you really are. Overall, this track is tough on tyres, I think we all needed a few more laps to have a more accurate look at the long runs".
More difficulties, instead, for Sergio Pérez:
"We had a delay in this session due to a bit of an issue with one of the roll bars but it was nothing major. I am not overly comfortable with the car at the moment, I think there is some good work and understanding to be done overnight. We also only had a short stint on the soft tyre but hopefully tomorrow we are able to pull it all together and be in the fight for qualifying and the race on Sunday.
A lot of work on a tough day for Esteban Ocon (18th at the end of FP2), who however feels the extra boost of his home race:
"First of all, it’s great to be driving in France again in front of the home crowd. There’s nothing that beats racing at home and it’s just a great feeling to drive around Circuit Paul Ricard as a French driver and already seeing so many fans on a Friday. In terms of the sessions today, we tried different things on both cars, and it was all about gathering a vast amount of data. We tried Soft and Medium compound tyres plus high and low fuel and we have a good read on information to make the right adjustments on the car for tomorrow. There’s definitely more to come".
A little better than him did Fernando Alonso (11th in FP2), just a bit more than a tenth away from Sergio Pérez in the Red Bull:
"It was a challenging Friday for us especially driving in these extremely hot conditions in France. We tried to adapt the car as best as we could to deal with these high temperatures and focused on tyre management and cooling down during the two practice sessions. On reflection, we are not totally happy with the balance of the car so far and we need to look at some potential changes overnight. I’m confident we can improve things and be in good shape for Qualifying tomorrow in front of our home crowd".
Pat Fry, Chief Technical Officer, narrates Alpine’s full day: the French team has brought some new elements for its car but has suffered a bit the high temperatures:
"It’s been a trouble-free Practice for us today for the team’s home Grand Prix. Conditions have been extremely hot, probably the warmest Friday of the season so far in terms of ambient temperature, which has certainly brought along a few challenges. We must get on top of these in order to improve our performance. We’ve brought some upgrades to this race with both drivers running those across both sessions today. They’ve worked as expected and, as ever, we’ll assess the data ahead of the rest of the weekend. We have a further update to put on the car tomorrow as well, which should bring some additional performance. Both drivers are facing similar challenges on car balance here and, clearly, we’re not where we want to be relative to our competitors. That said, with both drivers offering similar feedback, it gives us a clear, collective direction to make the right improvements for Qualifying where I’m confident the timesheets will better reflect our performance".
Sebastian Vettel confirms his love for old racing cars as he drives a 1922 Aston Martin Grand Prix TT1 ‘Green Pea’ on Thursday before the start of the F1 weekend. The initiative, which the German driver enjoyed very much, was conceived to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Gaydon-based manufacturer. To what concerns its British racing green great-great granddaughter, Seb seems quite satisfied with the feedbacks he received from the AMR-22:
"I went a little faster than I did yesterday in the 100-year-old car! We ran with two different specs on the cars today. It was good to compare but now we have to pick and choose what works best for FP3 and qualifying tomorrow. The key for us will be to try and make it into Q2 tomorrow so we have a good starting point for the race. The midfield is really tight so I hope we can be a bit more in the mix. Our race pace always seems to be slightly better, so hopefully we can find more of an edge for Sunday. Whatever happens, it is going to be hot".
Similar sensations for Lance Stroll (15th) with a gap of 2.068s from Sainz):
"It was a good day today. The car felt okay - particularly on the long runs we did in FP2 - but it was definitely hot out there for everyone this afternoon. We will look at the data tonight and what we can work on for tomorrow. It is a tight midfield so it is tough to predict where exactly we will be in qualifying".
The other Frenchman racing in his home Grand Prix is Pierre Gasly, who has lived a troubled but also very fruitful Friday, scoring the 5th fastest time in FP1 despite some mechanical issues and the 7th fastest time in FP2 despite encountering some traffic around turn 12:
"Clearly, in terms of performance, we were back in the Top 10 with 5th this morning and 7th this afternoon. The feeling in the way the car behaved showed a lot of positive signs with the new parts we brought this weekend. It is great to have this package for my home race and to see all the people around the track. Now we need to work to understand what we tested today and go through all the data to be able to put it together for Quali tomorrow. The way the front reacts is sharper and more reactive, especially in these longer corners where we used to wash out and overheat the tyres badly. The tyres are still overheating, which we will have to work on for the race, but it should be a fun one".
Less troubles but still more performance to be found for Yuki Tsunoda:
"We had a good comparison to Pierre this morning, which gives us enough data for tomorrow. There was a clear difference with the new package this afternoon straight away from the first push lap, so I’m happy about that. It will be challenging, but based on the performance we had today, we can be positive. There are things we still need to adjust, but hopefully we can finetune them in FP3 to be able to make it into Q3 in Qualifying. I didn’t feel crazy degradation, so that’s positive, but the race will be hotter so we will have to see".
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer for AlphaTauri, says:
"We brought some aerodynamic updates to this event and ran those with Pierre all day, keeping Yuki on the old car in FP1 to allow an across car comparison. Based on the data gathered in FP1, the updates were working as expected and delivering a good step in terms of performance. We therefore migrated Yuki's car to this configuration for FP2 and continued the optimization of the setup around the new package. Short run performance has clearly taken a step forward and we look forward to being able to fight again within the midfield - something we had been struggling to do at the last couple of events. With the very high track temperatures, and some long heavily loaded corners, it made it hard on the tyres - especially the front left. We evaluated the tyres over the long run, so we have all of the data now to help define the best strategy for Sunday. We are happy with today, but will continue our analysis of the car tonight to see if we can extract a little more performance out of it for tomorrow".
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance for Williams Racing, talks about his team’s Friday:
"Today went smoothly and we were able to run through some tests without issue. We steadily improved the car during the day but there is still more to come tomorrow, especially for Nicholas. It has obviously been hot today – and this will continue for the rest of the weekend – but the track has been in good condition and the tyres have behaved well. We have some work to do before Sunday to understand the best way to approach the Grand Prix in terms of tyre degradation and strategy, but we have made a decent start today and we have a solid platform that we can build on".
A convincing Alex Albon gives Williams a top 10 in FP1 with an excellent 8th time. Even though he cannot repeat such a performance in the following practice session, the Thai driver receives some encouraging feedbacks from his car:
"It was a good day for us as the car was feeling really good around this circuit, so I’m feeling positive. Hopefully we can use this and do a bit more and come out even stronger for tomorrow. All in all, I’m really happy with today".
Another tough day at the office for Nicholas Latifi, who places 20th and last in both practice sessions. The Canadian driver has a hard time keeping up with his teammate and seems unable to squeeze some extra pace from the car unlike Albon, who, despite the team’s difficulties, has provided some decent results, including point-finishes. Regarding his Friday in France, Latifi says:
"Overall it was a tricky day straight from FP1 - I just didn’t get the best feeling with the car which is something we’ll have to investigate to see if there was something not quite right. I don’t feel there was anything upgrade related which is good sign, so we’ll just have to see. It’s a positive that we have some good cross car data and are now running both cars on the new aero package, which means double data for the team. Let’s see what we can do overnight and tomorrow".
Definitely a more positive afternoon for Kevin Magnussen, who closes FP2 in 8th position with some heavy kerbing. The Dane and the American team seem to have managed to extract pace from the car without bringing any update:
"I don’t think it was a bad day. We made a decent jump from FP1 to FP2 - it didn’t look so good in FP1 - but then we made some changes and found some pace. Hopefully that carries into tomorrow and we have a good FP3, going into qualifying. It’s very impressive how the team is finding pace in the car despite no upgrades so I’m very happy about that and I’m excited to see what the car will be like when we do get upgrades".
A more difficult Friday for Mick Schumacher, who had to deal with a bad spin in FP2. The German goes out at Beausset corner and luckily avoids contact with the barriers:
"Sometimes you want to try and go to the limit and that’s what I did and carrying a lot of speed into that corner is helpful in terms of lap time and in that sense maybe it was a bit too much. It’s a bit unfortunate as that meant we were on the short side for tires on the long run but on the other hand you’ve got to try. The car felt good this morning, a bit worse this afternoon, so we’ll be analyzing why and trying to figure out how we can make it better but I don’t see a reason why we can’t get it back into the window tomorrow".
Team Principal Guenther Steiner sums up Haas’s day of practice:
"It was a solid day today. In FP1 we did some testing, aero testing mainly. In FP2, we made changes to the car from FP1 and it went quite well for Kevin. Mick never had a clean or full lap so he’s a little bit behind at the moment but I really think tomorrow we can get back to where we want to be".
Just like his old teammate Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas steps out of the car to let Robert Kubica have some fun in FP1. The Finn compensates immediately the session he has lost in the morning with a good 12th place, just five thousandths of a second behind Fernando Alonso:
"Stepping into the car at the beginning of FP2, it took me a few laps to get into the rhythm but I had a good feeling with the car straight away. The midfield seems even closer than usual, and I have a feeling there’s a lot more to come, both from the car and myself. I am looking forward to qualifying: I think we have a good chance of doing well".
Robert Kubica returns behind the wheel of the Alfa Romeo for some testing to try and help the team collect useful data:
"It’s been a busy session on my side of the garage: we had quite a lot of boxes to tick in these 60 minutes, from rake runs for data at the beginning of the session to a tight schedule of runs later in the hour. It was definitely warm out there and not the easiest conditions: still, it is always nice to drive a Formula One car and help the team with learning the set-up for the track. The feeling with the car was quite different from my previous outings, perhaps because of the heat: it will be interesting to go through the data with the engineers and understand better what we encountered, to make the car better for tomorrow and the rest of the weekend".
An 11th and 17th place for Zhou Guanyu mean it is going to be very close in the midfield according to the Chinese driver:
"It has been quite a smooth day for me; we went through the whole programme we had set out to achieve without issues. It was very hot out there, very tricky in terms of managing the tyres, but it’s the same for everyone and the key will be to find the best way to set the car up. FP1 has been very good and I was very comfortable, while in FP2, where we tried something different on the two cars, I personally struggled a little bit: however, I reckon the direction we need to take for tomorrow is clear, so I am looking forward to qualifying. Looking at our performances today, I think we look stronger than in Austria, so it’s a good step up, but then again it is once again super tight in the midfield battle, and tyres will make the difference: it will be all about getting laps together in qualifying and trying to avoid getting into traffic. Tomorrow will be a challenge and Sunday will be too, given the heat and the temperature, but I can’t wait to put myself in the game".
As cars and drivers enjoy some rest before the practice and qualifying sessions on Saturday, Mario Isola analyses the situation from Pirelli’s point of view. The hot temperatures of French summer do not help manage the tyres, even though all the compounds gave good response to the challenge presented by Circuit Paul Ricard:
"We had track temperatures that peaked at 56 degrees today - which is still a few degrees off our all-time record from Malaysia in 2016 - but despite these high temperatures, all the compounds performed well. It’s clear that the soft is going to be a compound used just for qualifying, and it was interesting to see that a second fast lap was possible after cooling down the tyres, thanks to a good level of grip and performance recovery. This potentially enables drivers to use fewer soft tyres in qualifying tomorrow, which could help them to save medium and hard sets for the race".
On Saturday, it is the last chance for teams to try some experiments before the qualifying occurs in a few hours. Bleachers are full of supporters ready for the show and the weather is good: the air temperature is 28 degrees while the track one 32 degrees, and humidity is at 65%. Red soft tyres will be the key compounds for the FP3 and for qualifying but are expected some experiments with medium ones. In the boxes, mechanics are setting the cars. Countdown starts and Perez is the first to get on track to warm up his tyres, followed by Max, and gradually all the drivers start to leave the box, except for Sainz who is still within the garages, looking at the monitors. Verstappen on medium tyres jumps to the top of the rank in 1.32.837 and gives the pace for FP3, followed by Perez (1'33"628), and Magnussen (1'34"768), both on soft tyres. Ocon on medium tyres starts his first lap: he scores -0.053 in the first sector, +0.754 in the second sector, and +1.622, taking P3. Lewis Hamilton on soft tyres is ready to start his lap. He scores +0.532, compared to Verstappen 23.463, completes the second sector in +1.023, and takes P4 in 1'34"592 (+1.755). It's 1.7, Jesus, comments Hamilton about the gap to fill in to Max’s time. While Alonso jumps to P5 (1.815), Verstappen scores a new best with 1'32"808. Ricciardo on medium tyres is about to start his first lap: he scores +0.720 in the first sector, +1.832 in the second, and completes his first lap in 1'34"649 in P7 (at +2.841). Gasly scores +0.659 in the first sector, +1.392 in the second, compared to Max’s 51.664, and completes in 1'34"138, taking P10. Ahead of him, there is his teammate Tsunoda (+2.392). Zhou gets P9 (+2.209), behind Magnussen. Stroll is in P12 (+2.405), followed by Ricciardo, who slipped to P13 (+2.573) in the meantime, and Vettel (+2.954).
Hamilton tries again and scores +0.974 in the second sector and takes P5 in 1'34"199 (+1.391), followed by Russell (+1.440), and Ocon (+1.651). Bottas on soft tyres tries his first best and completes in P4 (+1.191). Leclerc gets on track on medium tyres and takes P7 (+1.425), while Carlos Sainz gets P2 on soft tyres (+0.409). Zhou climbs to P7 on soft tyres (+1.412). I have a lot of air coming through my visor, says Stroll to his team, probably because he has a little gap on his visor. Russell tries again on soft tyres and scores +0.592 in the first sector, but it is not so good so he raises his foot from the pedal. Leclerc goes long on the abrasive blue lines of the circuit, as he spins at Turn 12. Norris on soft tyres scores +0.131 in the first sector, +0.850 in the second, and takes P6 (+1.310). In the meantime, Sainz scores 23.397 in the first sector, the fastest so far, but raises his foot before crossing the finish line and comes back to the garage. Steering is still extremely off center. It is very frustrating, says a disappointed Nicolas Latifi to his team. In the meantime, Gasly jumps to P4, and Ricciardo tries again on medium tyres and scores +0.490 in the first sector, +1.315 in the second, and completes in +2.335, not improving his position, P20, while his teammate manages to get P9. Hamilton warms up his soft tyres and is ready to try again a new quick lap. He scores -0.035 in the first sector, getting a purple, +0.212 in the second, and goes 294 km/h, and 41.379, in P3 with +0.447. Suddenly, the wind picks up, as Hamilton says to his team. Sainz tries again a new quick lap but this time on soft new tyres. He scores -0.062 in the first sector, +0.219 in the second, and completes in +0.364 in P2, making Hamilton slip to P3. Suddenly, the yellow flag appears in the first sector but it is removed immediately, without affecting many drivers.
"Is everything ok? I just hit a big kerb on exit of Turn 9 seconds".
Says Zhou to his team via radio. Leclerc on soft tyres tries again and scores -0.120 in the first sector, the fastest so far, +0.049 in the second. He is not going faster than Verstappen did on medium tyres and completes the quick lap in 1'32"909, taking P2 from his teammate. Latifi jumps to P5 on soft tyres (+1.033). Russell goes sixth (1'33"376) on soft tyres. Tsunoda jumps to P9 (+0.543), behind Norris in P8 (+0.861). Leclerc is back to the track. He scores +0.307 in the first sector but raises his foot from the pedal. Meanwhile, the session is over for Sebastian Vettel who jumps out from his car at ten minutes to the end and Sainz scores a purple in the first sector (23.297), the fastest sector so far, +0.132 in the second, and crosses the finish line in 1'32"626 (-0.182), overthrowing Max Verstappen. Bottas tries again on soft tyres and scores +0.349 in the first sector but goes wide and decides to give up the quick lap. Verstappen on soft tyres tries again and scores the fastest first sector 23.262, and then the fastest second sector 28.111, completing in 1'32"272 with Sainz at +0.354. My tyres are dead on the second lap. I don’t know why, says Leclerc to his team, while Stroll on soft tyres tries again at 6 minutes to the end of free practices. He completes his lap in P19 (+1.963) and says to his team Feel terrible. In contrast, Alonso on soft tyres scores +0.392 in the first sector, +0.860 in the second, and completes his lap in P7 (+1.233). Sainz gets on the track again at 2 minutes to the end of FP3. At one minutes to the end the yellow flag appears but again is cleared immediately. Verstappen on soft tyres tries again and scores +0.166 in the first sector and +0.292 in the second. However, he gets stuck in traffic jam and decides to raise his foot. Alonso tries again and maintains P7, without improving.
FP3 is over and Verstappen is leading the rank with 1.32.272, followed by the two Ferrari cars, Sainz (+0.354), and Leclerc (+0.637). Hamilton is in P4 (+0.983), followed by Perez (+1.021), Russell (+1.104), Alonso (+1.233), Albon (+1.286), Norris (+1.397), and Tsunoda (+1.79). Ricciardo goes eleventh (+1.516), followed by Latifi (+1.569), Gasly (+1.597), Bottas (+1.600) and Zhou (+1.639). Magnussen is in P16 (+1.759), Ocon (+1.850), Stroll (+1.905), Schumacher (+1.950), and Vettel (+2.264). A few hours later, the sun is beating down on grandstands. The qualifying is about to begin. High temperatures will have some effects on the tyres and again the red tyre will be the key. Q1 starts and the drivers have 18 minutes to get through Q2. Gasly is the first to start on soft tyres. He scores 23.437 in the first sector, 52.029 in the second, and completes his first lap in 1'33"696. Leclerc gets a purple in the first sector, 51.054 in the second, and completes in 1.31.727 going to the top. Tsunoda crosses the line in P2 (1'33"472), quicker than Gasly was. Perez scores a purple in the second and goes second with 1'32"354. Bottas takes P3 (+1.307) and Verstappen starts his first lap. Max scores +0.013, compared to Leclerc’s first sector, scores a purple in the second (-0.062), and goes second at +0.164 to Leclerc. Norris scores +0.452 in the second sector and crosses the line in P4 (+0.945), while Hamilton scores +0.633 in the second sector but he gets stuck in traffic jam, so he does not manage to go upper than P6 (+1.314). His teammate Russell completes his lap in P7 (+1.451). Tsunoda jumps to P8 (+1.667), followed by Norris (+1.677) and the two Alpine cars start their lap. In the second sector, Alonso scores +0.463 while Ocon +0.966. Alonso makes a bit of correction and completes in P5 (+1.092) while Ocon goes ninth (+1.619). I don’t understand why we did this second push to be honest, says Leclerc about the second run on soft tyres he was required to do. Sainz on soft tyres starts his lap and scores +0.103 in the first sector, crossing the finish line in P3 at +0.570 to Leclerc.
At three minutes to the end, the track is going to be pretty busy as a line of cars from the garages to the track is crowding the pit lane. Everyone is back on track except for Norris, Leclerc and Sainz. Drivers at risk are Zhou, Schumacher, Latifi, Vettel, and Magnussen. Zhou tries to save from the drop zone. He scores +0.125 in the first sector, makes a mistake, and spins a bit at the end of turn 7 but keeps the car on the track. He gets +0.497 in the second, does not improve, and remains in P16. Albon spins and goes wide, so he decides to give up his best and raises his foot from the pedal. Hamilton and Russell are trying to score a new best but Hamilton raises his foot and remains in P8. Russell completes his lap, without improving and remaining in P9. Tsunoda crosses the line in P11, putting Ricciardo in the drop zone. Stroll is at risk of elimination as he gets P15 (+1.712). Schumacher and Vettel are improving their time and are doing decent sectors. Schumacher takes P10 in (+1.387) and Vettel is in P11 (+1.558), putting out Gasly and Stroll. Q1 is over and Leclerc is in P1 (1'31"727), followed by Verstappen (+0.164), Sainz (+0.570), Perez (+0.627), Norris (+0.945), Magnussen (+1.029), Alonso (+1.092), Bottas (+1.307), Hamilton (+1.314), and Russell (+1.382). Vettel is in P11 (+1.559), at his back Ocon (+1.619), Tsunoda (+1.667), Ricciardo (+1.677), and Albon (+1'33"432), the last driver to qualify for Q2. The drivers who did not manage to get through Q2 are Gasly (+0.016), Stroll (+0.016), Zhou (+0.251), Schumacher (+0.278), Latifi and (+0.371). Then FIA communicates that Mick’s time (1'33"114) will be deleted due to track limits at turn 3 lap 9. I got screwed with traffic in the last sector, says Stroll to his team. Pierre Gasly. The driver points out that he was not competitive and able to deliver a perfomance today, in contrast to yesterday, when his car was among the top 10:
"I’m extremely disappointed to miss out on Q2 by a couple of hundredths at my home race. Yesterday we were extremely comfortable with the car in the Top 10, with some margin to be even faster and since FP3 I haven’t been able to deliver the same performance and I struggled a lot, so we need a bit more time to analyse. I wasn’t really competitive in Quali, we just weren’t fast enough, and at the moment I don’t know why. I was doing clean laps, but the car was sliding a lot in all the slow-speed corners. Tomorrow is a new day, so we will come up with a different strategy. Race day brings a lot of opportunities and we have nothing to lose, so we will try everything to recover. It will be tough and long for everyone, but I hope we can deliver a good race. It is an amazing feeling to race at your home Grand Prix and I want to put the best performance together for them".
Lance Stroll explains that he was stuck in the final sector on his last attempt and this costed him the Q2:
"It was a shame to hit traffic in the final sector on my last run. That definitely cost me a spot in Q2 today. My out-lap was also slightly compromised, so there was more on the table in the first sector too. Still, our long-run pace looked promising on Friday and it is possible to overtake here, so there are still opportunities we can take tomorrow. We will have a look at things overnight to see what we can do in the race".
Zhou Guanyu expected more from this Q1 and he explains that he had issues with the balance of the car:
"Given how we prepared for qualifying, I was definitely expecting more. In the end, I struggled with balance the whole session: Q1 was not ideal, the lack of grip was a big surprise, and that prevented me from having a clean lap at all. On top of it, I made a few mistakes in sector two during my first run and nearly lost the car in Turn Six on the second one. The lack of rear end was a bit frustrating, and we will have to investigate on that. I think where we are is not where we should be today; tyre management will be tough tomorrow, but I reckon there will be plenty of opportunities for us, especially from P16. The main goal, as always, is to bring both cars in the points, and everything is to play for".
Mick Schumacher commenting on his time being deleted for track limits:
"It’s a rule, it’s there for everybody and unfortunately I exceeded it, but it’s definitely something that we should talk about. Conditions are quite tough out there, it’s warm, but on the other hand that might bring about opportunities as people might make mistakes. It’s just a matter of being clean and looking after the tires as much as possible. I think we have the potential to go forwards in the race and that’s what we’re aiming for".
Nicholas Latifi expected a way thorugh to Q2 but due to the wind, he lost time:
"From the first practices there were positive signs, as well as an adjustment to the driving to get used to the new package, but it’s felt like a relative step forward in performance. We should have safely been through to Q2, but the wind picked up for my final lap and I lost a lot of time. I was progressively chipping away, so I should have been around eight tenths quicker than the time I did, but it all went away from the chicane onwards; I lost all the grip. The pace was there in the car and there are clear signs of improvement with the upgrade. We’ll check the car overnight and hope that the wind calms down for the race tomorrow".
Q2 starts and the two Ferraris are reaching the track, together with Alonso and Verstappen. Hamilton is the first to start. On soft tyres, he scores 23.309 in the first sector, 51.822 in the second, and close in 1'33"329, taking temporarily the lead in Q2. Russell on soft tyres scores 23.707 in the first sector, 51.911 in the second, and gets P2 (1'33"652). Norris gets a purple in the first sector, scores 51.498 in the second, and completes his first lap in Q2 in 1'32"770, overthrowing Hamilton. Leclerc tries his first best in Q2 on used soft tyres. He scores a purple in the second sector and goes first in 1'32"587. Perez gets a purple in the second sector (51.074) and goes fastest, taking P1 from Leclerc (1'32"120). His teammate Max gets a purple in the first sector, scores 51.001 in the second, and goes to the top, quicker than Checo (1'31"990). Alpine announces to Ocon that there is a strong wind on the track, which seems stronger than it was during FP3. Magnussen goes fifth (+1.121), followed by Ricciardo (+1.143), Alonso (+1.166), and Hamilton (+1.339). Vettel is tenth with 1'33"568. From P15, Sainz on new soft tyres starts his first lap. He scores -0.168 in the first sector, the fastest sector so far, -0.339 in the second, and goes first in 1'31"081, scoring the fastest third sector. Hamilton goes eighth (+1.255) at almost five minutes to the end. At 3 minutes to the end of Q2, all drivers are gradually coming back to the track, except for Verstappen and Sainz who stay at the garages. Ocon from P13 tries to get through Q3. He scores +0.014, compared to Bottas first sector (23.192), the last driver to qualify for Q2, -0.017 in the second, and crosses the line in P6 (1'33"0448). Vettel does not improve enough to put his car out of the drop zone and maintains P11. Bottas tries again but since he is not improving, he raises his foot from the pedal and gives up. Tsunoda goes sixth in 1'32"836, putting Ricciardo at risk, while Alonso takes P5, putting Magnussen at risk in P10 and making Ricciardo slip to P11. Leclerc goes second in 1'31"216. Both Mercedes are flying. Russell crosses the finish line in P6 (+1.552), while Hamilton from P13 goes fifth. Both Mercedes are safe. Finally, Magnussen manages to save himself, taking P7. The countdown stops and Sainz is leading Q2 (1'31"081), followed by Leclerc (+0.135), and the two Red Bull cars, Verstappen (+0.909) and Perez (+1.039). Hamilton is in P5 (+1.193), followed by Alonso (+1.550); Russell (+1.552), Magnussen (+1.568), Norris (+1.696), and Tsunoda, the last to qualify for Q3 (1'32"836). The drivers eliminated are Ricciardo (+0.86), Ocon (+0.212), Bottas (+0.216), Vettel (+0.440), and Albon (+0.471). Daniel Ricciardo is disappointed that he is out in Q2:
"Well obviously, I don’t want to be out in Q2. It was close but there are several corners where I’m offline and not really able to get it doing what I want it to do. So, for sure, frustrated, especially when we’re close. We have been working hard to get the most out the new parts this weekend, and thanks to everyone who has worked to get them to track. I think we’ve been hanging around the top ten all weekend, so it showed we’re on the brink of it. We’ll gain a few spots tomorrow with some engine penalties, so that will move us up the grid. Then we just need to make a good start and hopefully we can show some good race pace and tyre management. I think that’ll be key for tomorrow".
Esteban Ocon has the same feeling. He finds that there are some areas his team and him need to focus on before tomorrow’s race:
"It’s not been a great day for us today and we didn’t quite find that sweet spot with the car. There are a few areas we need to focus on ahead of the race tomorrow, so we’ll be looking at that closely tonight. Due to a couple of penalties, we do start in tenth place and I will be fighting hard to progress further into the points. I’ll be using the home crowd as extra motivation! It’s always special to race at home and I’m going to go out and give it my all, as always".
Valtteri Bottas is enough satisfied with today’s results as P11 may give some opportunities:
"It was a good session and starting in P11 tomorrow gives some good opportunities. It was a shame that we had to use two new sets of tires in Q1, and one in Q2, it seems like we are just missing a couple of tenths to be in the top ten in qualifying but otherwise it was a good performance. I hope we can make a step forward with the race pace tomorrow, in the worst case it will only be a bit better than in qualifying. It is hard to predict how the tyres will drop off with these temperatures. In general, I’m happy from my side: my laps were good, just missing a bit of pace. We tend to make progress in the race, with the penalties to Sainz and Magnussen we start from P11 which still should allow us to get into the points".
Of course, Frédéric Vasseur, Alfa Romeo’s Team Principal, hoped to gain better results but there are many opportunities tomorrow to go upper in the rank:
"We’ll start tomorrow’s French Grand Prix in P11 and P16, positions that will give us a good chance to fight for the points. Today’s results are not what we hoped to achieve at the start of the day, but it’s not the end of our weekend and there’s still plenty to fight for. We expected the whole field, particularly the middle, to be incredibly close and this has proven to be the case: the margins were very small and we weren’t able to be at the sharper end of the battle. Still, there’s a long day ahead of us tomorrow: we will be making up a couple of places with the various penalties, and we know there can be overtakes here. We will prepare our race to be able to fight our way back into the points and I am confident we can still give a good account of ourselves".
Sebastian Vettel has mixed feeling about his performance:
"On the one hand, I am pleased because I got the maximum out of the car today. On the other hand, we are not yet where we want to be. We are still lacking grip, but it is what it is. I think the small improvements we made this weekend have played their part. It is going to be a difficult afternoon tomorrow, but I am positive that we will be able to manage the tyres in the race. I think they will be the biggest issue for everyone - including ourselves - but I think we can look after them. It would be nice to bring some points home on Sunday".
Mike Krack, Team Principal, explains that Stroll got stuck in traffic in the third sector so he was not able to deliver a clear lap. In contrast, Seb managed to get through into Q2, even if he lost a great part of FP3:
"But we did not have enough pace to progress to Q3. Since [Carlos] Sainz and [Kevin] Magnussen will both start from the back of the grid, owing to having both used up their fourth power units, Sebastian will start tomorrow’s race from 12th and Lance from 15th. We had good long-run performance yesterday so our target is to score points tomorrow".
Alex Albon is overall happy with his results, although the wind challenged him a bit:
"I think I got a lot out of the car today and was happy with it - the wind did pick up and I struggled a bit with this. I think we’ve been slightly fortunate throughout the weekend so far with the low wind, but it picked up in qualifying and was getting stronger and just went the wrong way for us. The team are doing a good job and have come up with a really different package, so we really are fighting towards Q2 which is exactly where we want to be. Starting P13 puts us in a good place for tomorrow so let’s see what we can do from there".
Dave Robson comments today’s Williams performance:
"Conditions got a step trickier during Q1 as the wind picked up and this seemed to harm our competitiveness. FP3 went well and we did a good job with the tyres, but we expected that our position in the timesheets was a bit flattering for the real pace of the car. Q1 was going well until the wind picked up for the final run. This upset quite a few drivers, including both Alex and Nicholas. Alex had to abort his final attempt and Nicky, who was on a good lap at the time, lost a lot of the gain at T8 and was unable to improve. Fortunately, as other drivers also struggled, Alex’s time from his first run was good enough to qualify for Q2. Conditions remained tricky and Alex wasn’t quite sure how the car would react and so his pace wasn’t as good as it had been earlier in the weekend. However, due to some PU penalties, we will now start from 13th and 18th tomorrow. If the wind is favourable, then we can have a good race from there and look to score some points".
The last stage of qualifying is getting out the way. Cars are waiting for the green light on the pit lane. The Mercedes cars on used tyres leave the box, probably to save a new set of softs. They get on track and it seems that a formation lap is going on because Verstappen drives slow and all the cars follow him closely. Sainz is the first to start. He scores 23.859 in the first sector but he raises his foot to try again later. Perez scores 50.798 a purple in the second sector and crosses the line 1'31"640 in P1 for the moment. Leclerc gets a purple in the first sector, 50.819 in the second, and goes first in 1'31"209. However, Verstappen started a few moments after the Monegasque. Max gets a purple in the second (50.692), he drives fast but not enough to take the lead and puts his car in P2 (1'31"217). The two Mercedes are crossing the finish line. Hamilton goes P4 (+1.231) while Russell is quicker by a tiny margin. Norris takes P6 in 1'32"669 and all the cars come back to the garages. At four minutes to the end of Q3, all the cars are back on the track, except for Magnussen, who did not score any best in Q3. Sainz is the first to start. He scores +1.580 in the first sector but he decides to give up and does not complete his lap. His teammate is right behind him. Charles scores -0.010 in the first sector and -0.199 in the second sector. Before completing the third sector, Leclerc catches Carlos Sainz, who is ahead of him. Therefore, Charles follows him very closely, and takes the tow from his teammate’s car, who then dives out of the way, as only a teammate would do. Leclerc completes in -0.337, further improving his best time and taking pole position (1'30"872). It is Verstappen’s turn. Max does not improve the first sector (+0.151), scores -0.120 in the second, but goes second (1'31"176). It seems he was not in his best lap. Hamilton takes P4 (1'31"765) and his teammate is right behind him (1'32"131). Norris manages to put his car between the two Mercedes cars in P5 (+1.160). The countdown stops and Q3 is over. P1, says the Italian team to Leclerc. Grandissimi. Grande Carlos, says Leclerc to his team, thanking to his team and the teammate. Max Verstappen is a bit disappointed as he did not manage to take the pole position this time, although he will be still in the front line in the grid tomorrow. Leclerc jumps out of his car, waves to the supporters, and gets ready for the interview:
"Leading up to this afternoon, it had been quite a difficult weekend for me. I struggled with the balance and knew that in this kind of heat, you pay the price for the smallest mistake because your tyres overheat. Today, I felt good building up to that last lap in Q3. Carlos gave me a nice tow, which helped me to have a bigger margin and seal pole position. It was a good qualifying with great teamwork behind it. Our competitors are extremely strong here. It seems that they have an advantage in terms of race pace, but I’m confident we can turn it around and hopefully we will keep that first place tomorrow".
Carlos Sainz explains that today his job was to help the team to maximise the results and have a strong quailifying, due to the penalty he has:
"Given I’ll serve the penalty tomorrow, today was all about helping the team maximise the result and we executed a strong Qualifying. The plan was to go through Q1 and Q2 with only one attempt and then use Q3 to give a tow to Charles, which we did perfectly as a team. I’m happy because of that and because I’ve been fast and comfortable on track the entire weekend. In Q2 I pushed a bit more to test the limits and the time was very competitive. I would have obviously liked to do a normal session, but I prefer to take the positives as we keep taking steps in the right direction. We know that tomorrow won’t be an easy race but I’m looking forward to it. We will have to manage the tyres carefully while trying to move up the order, but I’m ready for it".
The Scuderia Ferrari Sporting Director, Laurent Mekies, finds that tomorrow will be difficult because the French track has always been complicated for Maranello’s team:
"This pole feels special, because it’s the result of a perfectly executed piece of teamwork. Congratulations to Charles who made a lot of progress over the course of the weekend, confirming once again how fantastic he is on a flying lap. And really well done to Carlos who has consistently had a great pace. With a penalty for the power unit change, he then put himself at the service of the team, towing Charles on both his Q3 runs, thus contributing to the final result. Now comes the hardest test, the Grand Prix itself on a track that, in the past, has proved to be particularly complicated for us. After last season’s race here, we have worked on track and in Maranello to find a solution to the limitations we experienced on these types of circuit. So now we are keen to see how much progress we have made and how much more we still need to do in order to improve. We will now analyse all the data to prepare for the 53 lap race, down to the smallest detail, in order to convert today’s result with Charles, even though our rivals have demonstrated excellent pace. It will be a case of two against one, which means it will be even more important to do everything to the best of our ability. Of course, we are also expecting to see Carlos work his way through the field and help us bring home a lot of points for both championships".
Max verstappen is not particularly satisfied with today’s performance:
"Overall we were lacking a bit in qualifying with grip and general pace. We pushed hard but there were a few areas on the track that I couldn’t improve on, especially in my final lap. We have a good race car but looking after the tyres is key, it’s much warmer tomorrow and that will have an impact so we’ll have to see what we can do strategy wise”. He recognises that Red Bull’s direct competitor, the Ferrari, has a great car and expects that they will have to fight tomorrow. “It’s good to have Checo alongside though and we are quick on the straights so let’s see what we can do".
Sergio Perez is relieved with today’s performance:
"To put in a decent lap in Q3 after a difficult start to this weekend is really good and I am pleased to be back in contention tomorrow. We did some setup changes and managed to get in the rhythm of understanding the tyres which worked out well and hopefully puts us in a position to fight hard in the race. I think patience, a strong start and a good tyre strategy in the heat will be key to getting a good result. It’s also very important we work together to get the best outcome for the Team".
The Ceo and Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner explains that tomorrow everything will be about the management of the tyres, in particular, the front ones
"Ferrari had the advantage on us today but in the context of attacking the racetrack this weekend they are running a little bit more downforce and we are a bit more trimmed out. It is all about tomorrow though and we have both cars up there, it’s two versus one, which is always a beneficial strategic dynamic and strategy can play a decisive role around this track. Through some of these long turns, like 11 and 12, and the first sector. We did some good work overnight on the sim and the factory worked very hard overnight, burning the midnight oil, to bring us improvements today. Ultimately, we have the second and third drivers on the grid and I believe we can do something from there in the race. It is going to be hot and a little windy tomorrow so it will be a fascinating battle out there. If it plays out and we are close to Charles with that overspeed then an overtake is on".
Lewis Hamilton is satisfied with his performance but he finds that the team has to work more because the gap with Ferrari and Red Bull has got bigger:
"I was quite happy with my lap and my performance at the end of Q3, it was a nice lap. But for whatever reason, we seem to be a lot further off this weekend, and so is the whole chasing pack. The two top teams are just in their own league performance-wise. I'm not sure why that gap has got bigger between these two races. Considering I missed FP1, which definitely puts you on the back foot, I'm really happy with the progress that I made and everyone back at the factories was working very hard with us. We took a step backwards today in final practice, but we managed to turn it around. We're still there and everyone behind me is struggling, too, so we just keep fighting".
George Russell feels the same because they are not where they hoped and thinks that Max and Charles are too quick for Mercedes:
"As a team I feel we're a bit further away than we would have hoped or expected, especially after yesterday. Personally, I had a good start to Q3, I was in P4 and just made a mistake on my last lap. At the end of the day, I think the time gap to the front is more concerning than the position. We need to understand it, as we're the only team on the grid that closes the gap to the front on a Sunday compared to a Saturday. All the other gaps extend, and we manage to reduce it. Hopefully, Lewis can take the fight to Checo tomorrow, but I think Charles and Max are probably too quick for us at the moment".
Toto Wolff recognises the great job Lewis did and that the team is not where they were expecting for this weekend:
"Lewis has done an immense job so far. He's probably extracted more than the car has at the moment. We are on the back foot, not meeting our expectations that we had for this weekend. Overall, our package is just not quick enough and you can see that. So, we have been experimenting with rear wing levels and tyre temperatures. Once we got the new tyres on in Q3 we knew we were going to be the third quickest, as we have been all season and it's just not good enough for us. Nevertheless, we'll work hard overnight and try to be in a better position tomorrow in the race".
And Andrew Shovlin concludes:
"Not an easy qualifying today. We've struggled for single lap pace all day and both drivers did a good job to get the cars into the top six, given that it was no easy task to get through to the final session. We were trying a range of approaches to the out lap, looking to put the tyres in a different window but it wasn't really giving us any better overall pace. We don't really have an answer as to why the gaps were so large but at least we are not too far down the order. We're hoping that the race pace is stronger, which has been a general trend of our car although we didn't do enough laps on Friday to get a good read on this. The race is going to be tough on the tyres though, the degradation we have seen up and down the field is higher than we expected and the forecast is for track temps over 50 °C. That may create some opportunity but it's hard to set our expectations without knowing where the long run pace will fall out. Hopefully we'll be stronger than today and looking forwards not backwards but regardless, we're learning more and more each time we run the car and it's all an important part of us getting back to where we want to".
Lando Norris is glad with his P5. He finds that the car behaved well especially in low fuel conditions:
"I’m very happy. P5 is a great result for us today. The car has been working very well, especially in the low fuel conditions. I feel like we did a very good job, extracted everything we could out of the car and I’m very happy with that. Thank you to the team both at track and the factory for their work to bring the upgrade package to the car and making sure everything was there for us to put together a great final lap. There’s a long and difficult job to do tomorrow but we’re in the best place we can be to secure some good points. Let’s see what we can do".
Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Executive Director, finds that the weekend so far has been positive for both drivers, with Lando in P5 and Daniel in P9 as there will be some penalties for the drivers before him. He agrees that today’s conditions were challenging due to the heat but the upgrade they did this weekend seemed to work, allowing Lando to put his car between the two Mercedes cars:
"Overall, this was a positive qualifying session for us with Lando in P5, and Daniel P11, which will become P9 on the grid when other cars take their penalties. Conditions on track at Circuit Paul Ricard were extreme with the heat, and the competition was fierce with the midfield very tightly compressed this weekend. With this in mind, we’re happy to be at the front of the group. The upgrade we have this weekend appears to be working, and is what allowed Lando to split the Mercedes today. It’s been a huge team effort at the factory and here in the garage to get the new parts onto both cars, and everyone involved has my thanks. Now, our focus shifts onto the race. We can learn a little more this evening about our car for what will likely be a very tough French Grand Prix. The aim is to consolidate our grid positions and bring home some good points tomorrow".
Otmar Szafnauer, Alpine Team Principal, says about qualifying:
"Today’s Qualifying result means we’re in the mix to score well with both cars for tomorrow’s race on home turf. Fernando has done a great job this weekend in tricky conditions and he lines up seventh tomorrow with his focus very much fixed on putting pressure on Lando [Norris] and George [Russell] ahead. Esteban, who has not been totally happy on car balance, looked like he might reach Q3, but unfortunately, he fell just short of that by a couple of tenths. Still, it’s all very much to play for tomorrow when points are given out. Our race pace during Friday Practice was promising and we’re in a good position with both drivers to score points. That’s our objective tomorrow and I’m sure with a good start and a well-executed race strategy with both cars, that will be achievable".
On Alonso, he finds that he made a good job taking P7, especially in those challenging conditions, so he will be able to put pressure on Norris and George Russell. On Ocon, he says he could have reached Q3 but he missed for a few tenths:
"It has been a challenging weekend so far but seventh is a strong position for us to start in tomorrow. We were not totally happy in practice with the car balance and so we’ve been working hard all weekend to improve that. Yesterday the long runs seemed quite strong for us, so let’s see whether we can make some gains tomorrow. Tyre management is going to be a big factor as they are overheating and graining, so it’ll be a real challenge in the heat. The pit lane time loss is also one of the highest of the championship, so a one-stop strategy will be ideal tomorrow, but whether that is possible we’ll have to wait and see. The atmosphere has been great, and we’ve really felt the love from the home fans".
Yuki Tsunoda is happy to have qualified for Q3:
"It is good to be back in Q3 after getting the updates, so great job to the team with ending up in a good position. We were able to get back to the position we want to fight at, so I am quite happy, and now we just have to put it all together tomorrow. We expected to struggle to adapt to the new car, so FP1 and FP2 were a challenge, but together with the engineers, mechanics, and the team we were able to come back. We changed our approach to the balance and that worked well straight away, which was the turning point for our result today. Everyone in the factory did a great job about the medium-speed corners, which is what we were aiming for and we achieved that target. Based on our long-run pace, I am sure we can bring good performance with the new updates, as they help with the tyres, so we are aiming for points tomorrow. Strategy will be important between a one-stop or two, but I am confident in the team we will make the right decision".
Guillaume Dezoteux, Alpine Head of Vehicle Performance, explains that they were expecting to get in through Q3 after yesterday’s FP3:
"After a positive Friday, which confirmed the progress made with the new developments, we were looking for a third practice session dedicated to Qualifying preparation. While for Yuki there was clear progress from yesterday, it was a difficult session for Pierre, who couldn't really extract the potential from the car and got knocked out in Q1. His last lap was looking good, he was improving a lot compared to his previous attempt, when he lost the car in Turn 6. We need to understand with Pierre and the engineers what happened there, because all the car parameters looked normal up to that point. Yuki did a good job bringing the car to the last Quali session and securing the 8th place on the grid. He showed consistent driving for the entire session. Now we need to analyse how our strengths have evolved and where we need to improve with the updates we have brought here, but we can be happy to have closed the gap to McLaren and Alpine in the midfield. Tonight, we will simulate different race scenarios for both drivers with the target of bringing home good points tomorrow".
Kevin Magnussen explains that the team’s plan was to help Mick with the tow but he did not manage to qualify for Q2:
"The pace was really good in the car. The plan was to go out and help Mick with the tow but then he didn’t get through to Q2. We had already planned to go out, so we went out even though there was no point, it was just kind of fun anyway with a fast car. We’re starting last tomorrow but hopefully the car is good again in the race and we can progress".
Guenther Steiner, Haas’ Team Principal, has mixed feelings regarding today’s performance because Kevin will start at the back of the grid and Mick has his time deleted:
"A good but frustrating day for us today - our speed is there but we’re now in difficult positions. Kevin, with the engine change will start at the back of the grid, and Mick’s time was deleted in Q1 and so he didn’t get out because he was over the track limits. Anyway, I think the car has got enough speed tomorrow that at least we can move forward, let’s see how far we can get forward, and if it’s forward enough to score some points".
Finally, Mario Isola explains Sunday’s potential strategies regarding tyres and also stops:
"On paper, a one-stopper from medium to hard is actually theoretically fastest, but I still think that most teams will be aiming for a two stopper, most likely using the medium and the hard tyres. It’s interesting to note that of the frontrunners, Leclerc is the only one to have one set of hards and two sets of medium tyres left for the race: his direct rivals mostly have two sets of hards and just one set of mediums. So it’s likely that we will see some different strategies, in conditions that are going to be perhaps hotter than today".
It is July 24, 2022 and is a hot Sunday in Le Castellet. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc starts from pole position, after a very good qualifying, while due to a grid penalty, team mate Carlos Sainz in nineteenth on the grid; Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez are respectively second and third, while Lewis Hamilton, on his 300th Grand Prix, is in P4. Because of the high temperatures, tyre management will be really important to gain good results and Valtteri Bottas, Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz are the only drivers who start on hards, while the rest of the field is mediums. Lights out and Charles Leclerc goes first, managing to keep the lead, while Verstappen has his last year’s rival Hamilton behind, as the Mercedes driver jumped to third and tried to pass the Dutchman going into the opening chicane. Good start also for Fernando Alonso, who goes from P7 to P5, leaving Russell and both McLarens behind. Magnussen jumps to 13th from 20th at the start, and at the same time there is a collision into Turn 9 between Esteban Ocon and Yuki Tsunoda, who spins and ends in last position. Because of this, Ocon receives a five-second penalty. On lap 5, Verstappen is right on Leclerc’s tail and uses DRS as he has half a second of detachment from the leading Ferrari. The same for Perez, who continues to try to steal the third place off Hamilton. Sainz manages to pass both Alfa Romeos, Gasly and Mick Schumacher, and by lap 5 is fourtheenth. On the following lap, the reigning World Champion tries to pass the Ferrari number 16 around the outside of Turn 11, but fails and continues following Leclerc very closely. Hamilton has now a little gap to Perez and his team mate Russell begins to gain on him. Magnussen from the twelfth position is the first to pit, on Lap 9, for another set of hards. His team mate Schumacher and Zhou Guanyu do the same a lap later.
The Ferrari team tells Leclerc to opt for Plan B, while Verstappen is now out of DRS range, while Sainz is now into the top 10. On lap 17, Verstappen pits for hards and emerges sixth, behind Lando Norris, who immediately overtake at Turn 11. On Lap 18, Charles Leclerc, leader of the race since the start, enters Turn 11 and loses the control of his car, spinning into the tyre wall: his race has just come to an end, with the Monegasque’s scream over the radio evoking hurt and frustration. A Virtual Safety Car is triggered; Hamilton, Russell and Perez pits and all three stops last more than three seconds, while Verstappen strengthens his leading position. Zhou is the only driver who does not stop, while Sainz and Gasly chose mediums over hards as the others chose the hard compound. The only Ferrari driver left on track receives also a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release, into the path of Albon, during his Safety Car stop. On lap 22, the Safety Car ends and Verstappen runs easily away and, after only five laps opens a gap of three seconds over Hamilton. Sainz overtakes Norris and Alonso and runs fifth; he then passes also Russell on the run to Turn 10 taking P4. Sainz’ ppace is superior to that of Perez and Hamilton, and afer 9 laps, the Spaniard goes wheel-to-wheel with Perez, shouting not now, on the team radio as they asked him to box at the an inopportune tme; he manage to take P2 off the Red Bull going into the final corner. On lap 42, Russell is very close to Perez and makes contact with him going into Turn 8. The Mexican retains his position: Russell’s protests about this but his team does not agree and makes it clear to him it clear that he was not ahead of the Red Bull going into the chicane. Mercedes’ Team Principal Toto Wolff tells him to keep his head down and continue his race. From the third position on Lap 43, Sainz serves his five-second penalty and takes a new set of mediums.
He emerges behind the Alpines and McLarens. Suddenly Zhou stops off the track, so is forced to retire for the fifth time and a Virtual Safety Car is out. On lap 51, the VSC ends, so Verstappen runs away and Russell sweeps past a slow-moving Perez out of the final corner and gains the final podium place. The Mexican tries to hit back, but did not manage to do it and finished just 0.815 seconds behind Russell. Verstappen is comfortably in the lead until the end of the race, with a margin of 10.587 seconds over Hamilton. The reigning World Champion now has a 63-point lead over team mate Perez in the drivers’ ranking, while Mercedes, with this double, is just 44 points behind Ferrari in the constructors’. Sainz easily passes the Alpines and McLarens to finish fifth and is also elected Driver of The Day. Alonso started fifth but finished sixth, ahead of Norris. Now, Alpine is ahead of McLaren in the battle for P4 in the standings. Esteban Ocon ends eighth, even if lost time on the Safety Car restart and was behind the McLarens on Lap 22; then, the home driver overtook Ricciardo, wh ends ninth. Lance Stroll, who had a wheel-to-wheel battle with his team mate on lap 1 and on the last lap of the race, ends tenth. Pierre Gasly started 12th and, after falling to 15th, recovered back to 12th as Albon made a mistake late on to finish 13th. Valtteri Bottas’s finishes 14th and behind him is Mick Schumacher, who was tapped into a spin by Zhou at Turn 11 on Lap 22. After being penalised for the clash, Zhou stopped on Lap 50 with a mechanical failure and is 16th on the final ranking. Williams' Nicholas Latifi attempted a move on Haas’s Kevin Magnussen on Lap 38, but with the Dane having run out of room, the pair made contact. Magnussen retired in the pits, Latifi following suit soon after, with the stewards deeming the clash a racing incident. Tsunoda was the first to retire because of his early collision, so neither AlphaTauri scores points. Verstappen ran behind Leclerc during the opening stages of the race, but then took the lead when his rival crashed and from there he drove comfortably to the victory:
"We had really good pace from the start, although following around here, the tyres overheated a lot so I couldn't really go for a move but I stayed calm and stayed close. It was really unlucky for Charles and I'm glad he's OK, it could have been a really fun race because both cars were so quick. From there I just concentrated on my own race and looked after the tyres. The pit lane is so long here so that prevented us from having another pit stop. Today was a great day but there are plenty more races ahead of us and I just always aim for the most points possible, the fight is nowhere near over".
Sergio Perez’ race was less easy. At the start, he lost out to Hamilton, then he battled with both Sainz and Russell and in the end the Mercedes’ driver took off him the final podium place:
"It was a difficult one out there today, I was off the pace and unfortunately wasn't able to get the podium we wanted. I struggled with tyre management and it was tough to get on top of it. I had a close battle with George, but it was a good one. I wish we could have pushed for a 1-2, but Mercedes were very strong and it was difficult to overtake them. There are some bits for us to analyse and hopefully I will recover my pace and come back stronger for Hungary".
Christian Horner, Red Bull’s Team Principal, is pretty satisfied with Max’ result:
"The main thing today is that Charles was OK, it was a cracking race between Max and him in that first stint. We pushed the button early and went for the undercut, Max had effectively taken track position, so it's a shame we didn't get to see how that played out, it would have been a great battle. In the end it was a straightforward victory for Max and a very good point scoring day”.
He then talk about Checo, who was less lucky than his team mate:
"It was frustrating we didn't have Checo on the podium too, it was just bad timing for the virtual safety car for him, there was a software error so they were held longer than they should have been. We have to keep pushing this season and look to get the best out of every ounce of performance, there are lots of factors at play but today was a big day for us".
Hamilton’ start was excellet, as he immediately took off the third position from Perez into the first corner. Overall, he had a relatively lonely race, and after Leclerc’s crash, ran second and achieved the best result of the season until now:
"What a great result, considering we have been so far off all weekend and that I missed FP1. I wasn't expecting to fight for second place or a podium, so this is a wonderful result for us. Our team has been amazing when it comes to reliability and it shows that with dedication and focus, we can slowly make our way up. We don't have the same pace yet as the two teams at the front but today we were able to keep one of them at bay so a great result for us, everyone has worked really hard. Huge congratulations to the teams back at the factories and the team here. Without them, this wouldn't have been possible and I'm proud of them. And George did an amazing job today, too".
George Russell was passed by Alonso but soon after made his way back past the Alpine, and fighted with Perez for the final podium place. They collided at one point, but at the VSC restart Russel made a good move, overtaking the Red Bull driver and taking the third place:
"It was a long and tough race. Our pace was strong, but we really struggled with the warm-up of the tyres on the restart and Checo was strong today. I was glad to see the chequered flag and come home P3. We're making a lot of progress and we really need to improve our qualifying performance as we're lacking consistency. We know as a team we struggle with the tyre warm-up and at the restart I struggled with the same issue. Our race pace today was reasonable and we're getting closer to the front. We're doing everything we can to improve the performance of the car and we believe we are on the right path, so we're excited what the next races can bring for us. We're making progress and there is still more to come, thanks to everyone back at the factories in Brackley and Brixworth for their hard work and dedication".
Toto Wolff thanks Lewis Hamilton for always pushing the team, and thinks they are improving and going tot he right direction:
"Overall, the drivers did a really good job and the team effort was great today. We're extracting the maximum that is possible on race day currently. George was clever and fast, while Lewis was fighting like a lion. Lewis is absolutely on it and keeps pushing the team. He keeps his positive mindset, even on grim days like yesterday and he never stops pushing. But we need to stay humble, because our car is just not good enough to fight with the teams in the front. We're lacking six to seven tenths to the leaders. In qualifying we struggle to bring the tyres into the optimum window and don't manage to extract the most from the first flying lap. And then in the race, we lose three seconds at the start of the race, but once we stabilise, we are actually not so bad. We still have a lot of work to do, but I believe we have the best people to do so. All in all, today was a great team effort at track and back at the factories and we're heading in the right direction".
Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin defines this ”the best race of the year” and is happy of having both drivers racing at the front. He is optimistic about the future:
"We know that we've got a long road ahead of us but compared to where we were a couple of months ago in Monaco and Baku, it's really satisfying to see the team and drivers having a bit of fun again. The weekend hasn't been easy, our qualifying positions weren't far off expectation, but the gaps to Charles and Max were eye opening. We'd hoped that the car would be kind on the tyres today, the conditions were very tough given the circuit and the temperature but degradation was good and whilst we are lacking a bit of pace, we at least seemed a bit stronger towards the end of the stints. We've only got a couple of days to try and regroup and prepare for Budapest. Hard work has got us to a level where we can fight for a place on the podium but we want to be fighting for the top step. We've got one race to go before the summer break so we will be pushing hard to try and finish the first half of the season on a high note".
Bad day for Charles Leclerc, who after leading the first stages of the race, lost the rear through Turn 11 and crashed into the barriers. He was forced to retire and this obviously influences his position in the drivers’ ranking:
"I’m very disappointed. This is not the outcome that I wanted today, as we had the pace to win. I made a mistake and paid the price for it. Now I will head home to reset before the next race in Hungary, where I will give it my all once again".
Sainz started from the back on hards and had moved up some positions when the Safety Car came out. He switched to the mediums and was then forced to pit again where he also served a five-second time penalty earned for an unsafe pit stop release:
"It was a hard race today but I also enjoyed going through the field, making lots of overtakes. To make places up with the Hards was tricky but as soon as I put the Mediums the pace improved a lot and I managed to make good moves. I gave everything out there today and, even though we were a bit unlucky with the pit stop and the penalty, we managed to fight at the front. Like always, we will review everything these couple of days to see where we can improve and hopefully we can bring home a better result before the summer break. A pity for Charles as he was doing a great race. We’ll keep pushing".
Ferrari’s Team Principal Mattia Binotto look at the positive things of the race, then he comments on the drivers’ performance
"Although this result was far from the one we wanted, there are still some positives to take away from this race. First of all, the F1-75 was very competitive, even on this difficult Paul Ricard track. There is no point on dwelling on Charles’ mistake. These things can happen, even to great drivers like him and together, we have already put it behind us. Carlos had a strong weekend, starting with qualifying, when he did what was required of him for the team. In the race, he was patient in the early stages and then made up places lap after lap, including some brilliant overtaking moves. Now we look ahead to Hungary where we want to fight for the win once again".
Good start for Alonso, who picked off Russell and Norris. The Briton then recovered the place back, but Alonso managed to hold off his McLaren rival and end sixth:
"I am pleased with our race today. It was well-executed from our side and we managed the pace and tyres well. We had to work through a lot of things in terms of the car balance this weekend, but we ended up finishing just behind the top five positions, so a very solid race in the end and more points on the board for us. I had a good start climbing up to fifth, but then we dropped to sixth and perhaps resumed our normal position in the race. It shows that when we have a clean weekend like this one, then we can finish in the top six positions. Hopefully we can keep-up this level of consistency throughout the second half of the season and continue our momentum".
Esteban Ocon finished the kerbs on the first lap and then understeered into Tsunoda, so was awarded with a five-second penalty. But then, he drove superbly to make it a double-points finish for Alpine and gain the fourth place in the constructors’ championship:
"The goal today was to score points with both cars, and we’ve done just that! I’m happy with my race today and it was brilliant to drive in front of the home fans who have been incredible all weekend, so thanks to them for all their support. It was a tough one out there in the heat, and I enjoyed the on-track racing with some tight battles. We’re now fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, so we leave here feeling very positive and motivated to keep that position. I do hope we race in France next year as there is nothing quite like a home Grand Prix. Merci to all the fans and allez Alpine".
Laurent Rossi, CEO Alpine, is satisfied about their home race:
"We’re very pleased to score strongly with both cars from our home race and we’re now ahead in fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship and, I must say, it is deserved. It was great to race at Circuit Paul Ricard today in front of such passionate home fans, so thanks to them for their fantastic support all weekend. On track, we knew we had a great chance to score well with both cars today. We needed a good start, which we achieved, and well executed races by both team and drivers. Fernando did a great job to get past Lando [Norris] at the start and from there he managed his race brilliantly to score eight points in sixth. Esteban too had a great start but was given a time-penalty for his collision on lap one with Yuki [Tsunoda]. He had to keep his head down to claw back the advantage he gained, and his patience and decisiveness was key in passing the second McLaren of Daniel [Ricciardo] for eighth place. Now our objective is clear. We must do everything we can to remain in fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship. It won’t be easy, but we must keep our flow of upgrades coming and put together strong race weekends - like we have done at home in France this weekend - for the remainder of the season".
Norris first dropped behind Alonso, and never managed to get the position back. Then, he also lost out to Russell and ended seventh:
"Tough day but I think it was what we expected. It was a long race and we struggled a little bit with the degradation of the tyre but also just with the pure pace. We weren’t as quick as we needed to be, so yeah, just tough but I won’t say disappointed. It’s sort of what we were expecting, so not a surprise. The upgrades did bring rmance and we will work over the next event to make sure they’re fully optimised. We’ll keep pushing, keep trying to improve, and we’ll go again next weekend. Thanks again to all the team here and at the factory for their efforts".
Daniel Ricciardo ended ninth, as he was unable to pass Ocon during the race:
"It’s points so that’s a positive. It’s only ninth but still important. I had a bit of pace early in the stint and tried to get more out of it, but then it fell away a little too quickly so I definitely struggled from mid-stint onwards and didn’t have the pace to run with the Alpines and Lando. I felt like I did the best that I could – but it’s not enough to make me happy. Thanks again to everyone for the hard work in getting the upgrades to track this weekend and we'll push to get more out of them over the next few races. Double-points but we’ll keep working".
McLaren’s Team Principal Andreas Seidl thanks he team for the work done and looks at the next race:
"P7 and P9 maximised what we had in our hands today. Alpine were a little quicker over a race distance but Lando and Daniel both drove very good races and we go away from Le Castellet with a lot of positives. The upgrade package we introduced here gave us a step forward in terms of performance. Big thank you to the development and production teams back at the factory for providing us with enough parts to run the upgrade on both cars, and also to the trackside team and our colleagues at Mercedes HPP who worked very hard in tough conditions to ensure we could get both cars home and in the points. We have a lot of data to analyse within the next few days, to see how we can extract more performance from our updated MCL36, before we get back on track, five days from now at the Hungaroring. One more big effort before the summer break".
As for Aston Martin, Lance Stroll made up five places to run tenth and mantained the position untiil the end:
"We had a great first lap today that set us up to have a great race. I nearly got [Esteban] Ocon in Turn Nine as well, but it was important to have such a good start. I felt I had some momentum in the closing stages to possibly catch [Daniel] Ricciardo. We are continuing our trend of being more competitive on a Sunday so today is a good platform as the summer break approaches. I had a snap on the exit on the last lap because I was struggling with my tyres at the very end. It was a good fight with Sebastian, but the most important thing was to bring a point home for the team today".
Sebastian Vettel was so close to Stroll in the closing stages that they almost collided coming through the final corners:
"My afternoon was frustrating. I was stuck in traffic for the whole race - but you expect that when you start in the midfield. And, with the strategy, I do not think there was really much more the team could have done there. It is clear that we need more grip. In the race, things were not too bad - the cars ahead of us were not disappearing - and we also understand the car a little bit more after this weekend. I had a chance to pass Lance on the final lap; I was a little bit faster but we are not fighting over one point - it is the same net result for the team. It does not make any difference".
Team Principal Mike Krack describes the race and is satisfied about the car, in view of Hungary:
"Lance made an excellent start from his P15 grid slot to climb to 11th early on, just behind Sebastian in 10th. Lance then passed Sebastian later on the same lap, and they ran in close company more or less throughout the rest of the race. We decided on a one-stop strategy for both drivers, but we did not want to risk stacking our drivers’ tyre stops during the Safety Car period triggered by [Charles] Leclerc’s accident because the pit lane was extremely congested at that point and we would have had to hold Sebastian for too long. Despite rear tyre degradation in the last third of the race, Lance did well to hold on to 10th and thereby score a hard-earned point, with Sebastian just behind him. A double points finish would have been great, but it was not to be. Even so, our race pace was decent and our reliability was good, and that is a solid basis to take forward to the Hungaroring - a circuit that we think may suit our car better than Paul Ricard. Last but far from least, on behalf of our whole team, I want to express our deepest sympathy with the family and friends of 18-year-old Jake Pedley, one of our apprentices, who tragically lost his life in a road accident on Tuesday".
Tsunoda’s race ended early, as he was tipped into a spin by Ocon, continued for a few laps, but retired with car damage:
"I got quite a lot of damage early on and it just kept getting worse with each lap. I watched back the onboard and I definitely left enough space, but he lost control. It ruined our whole race and 5 seconds is not enough in the end, when he continued with no damage, even getting some points. I know in racing these things happen, but it is such a shame especially after such a good Qualifying, and I feel bad for the team, also everyone back at the factory, to have it end like this after all the work they’ve done. We didn’t score any points after such a big upgrade, but at the same time I think I did the best I could this week. Even though Quali was good, the race is where points are scored in the end, so it was unfortunate. Top 8 could have been possible, but it is what it is, and we will definitely be back stronger and better in Hungary. We have a good car, so we stay positive".
Gasly was running in twelfth position until he went wide and lost three places; he managed to recover but finished twelfth:
"We tried to fight to get back into the points and what we managed is P12, which clearly isn’t the performance we would have liked. The fans and spectators made it a special weekend to put a big smile on my face, but I am extremely disappointed in the performance we showed. If I knew what the problem was, we could have changed it, but there was just a lot of sliding around and a lack of grip, especially in the high-speed corners. I tried everything I could in the car to push, changing lines, but there was nothing that clicked. Obviously, I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but based on the pace we had today we need to review to understand why Friday went so well and from then on it was a struggle. We finished only 3 seconds behind P10, so we aren’t miles away, but there are no points for P11 or P12. It is now important to try to understand this new package. It will take some time, but it is quite tight in the midfield, so we have to find the solutions. There are a couple of days before Budapest so we, as a team, have to stay strong together to find the solutions and make a big step forward".
Guillaume Dezoteux, Head of Vehicle Performance, is not satisfied of the result, came after a promising Friday. The team will analyse the data before the next race in order to improve themselves:
"Unfortunately, we leave Paul-Ricard without any point. Yuki's race got compromised immediately after he got hit by Ocon and he ended up last. He tried to carry on, but the damage to the car was big and Yuki couldn't maintain the pace and catch-up to the pack in front. There was no other choice but to retire him. Regarding Pierre's race, we knew it would be difficult starting from the back, hence we decided to put him on a different strategy with the Hard. The first half of the race was looking alright, but on Lap 28 Pierre did a mistake trying to overtake Albon and lost several places. From there, he pushed hard and he had a good pace regaining the ground lost, but it wasn't enough to get the Aston Martins. After a promising Friday, we failed to convert the improvements of the car into points, which is frustrating, but we have seen positive signs for the future races. We will analyse all the data before Hungary to further improve the setup around the new aero package. We will fight back".
Albon at a certain point was eleventh, did not manage to pass Vettel and lost also out of Gasly:
"It was tricky out there today but more enjoyable. We were in contention for most of the race and were looking close to the points - we were a bit down on pace and were using a lot of the tyres to try to stay close, and it just fell away from us towards the end. We'll look at the data and hopefully we can improve week on week as we were quite quick in qualifying. We'll look at it and see what we can do better for Hungary".
Nicholas Latifi’s race ended early; he fought with Magnussen, ran wide and the team decided to retire his car with damage:
"There are a lot of positives to take from today. The pace was competitive, especially in dirty air, and I was racing cars that I haven’t been racing against all year so that’s been nice. I definitely don’t think I was at fault for the incident with Kevin, it was maybe more of a racing incident. The incident was a shame as our pace was strong and we were racing out of position against cars that we were quite a bit quicker than. Being further up in qualifying would have made a difference, but it’s nice to get racing again. I take the confidence in that pace from the upgrade and I feel that the season is getting back on track and we can make a proper start now".
Dave Robson focuses on the importance of tyre management with the hot temperatures in France, then he describes the Williams’ drivers race:
"The hot conditions made for tough race with all drivers needing to manage the cars and tyres throughout. The safety car was temptingly timed but did make for a tricky long final stint on the Prime tyres. Our cars were too close to each other to be able stop both on the same lap and so Nicky did an extra lap, which meant that he didn’t get the full advantage of pitting behind the safety car. Both drivers managed the race well but unfortunately Nicky had to retire following a puncture and extensive car damage. Alex was able to battle to the end but had to manage his fuel and tyres against quicker cars and wasn’t able to fight for the points. It was good to get a lot of extra racing laps on the new package and all the data and feedback collected will help us at the remaining races".
As for Alfa Romeo, Zhou tipped Schumacher into a spin at the Safety Car restart, so pitted for a new front wing. He was handed a five-second time penalty for this collision, and then parked up out on track for mechanical problems:
"About 10-15 laps to the end I was suffering with a power unit issue; I tried to do some switching, but eventually that put an end to my race. It was a technical issue, and we will investigate that ahead of Budapest to avoid having it happening again. Apart from that, the race just never went our way, we were struggling all the way through. Regarding the contact with Mick, I was defending my inside in Turn 11, he was trying to go for the outside but then it got to one point where the corner just became too small for me. I think it’s difficult to judge for both of us, as that kind of compromised my race. Unfortunately, that happens in racing, we just have to move forward. It was definitely not a day to remember for us, but having another back-to-back race means a whole new weekend of opportunities to get competitive again and put ourselves back where we belong".
Unlucky race for Valtteri Bottas, who dropped places at the start and did not managed to recover due to a bad race pace:
"It was a really long race and it felt like a lot of sweat with nothing to show for it! Of course, you can learn something from every race, so that must be what we take away from this weekend. We dropped a lot of places at the start and that made it very difficult for us: our race pace was not as good as we expected, even though the car improved a lot on medium tyres. Hopefully, some updates we will have in Budapest will help us, we know the team is working really hard on it. To keep in the fight with the cars ahead of us in the constructors’ championship, we need to find some extra performance, but I am confident we can do it as a team".
Alfa Romeo’s Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur says that this is not the result they hoped for, but it is important to look at the future in order to improve :
"We were confident, before the race, we could convert some decent grid positions into points, but sadly it wasn’t to be the case this afternoon. Valtteri struggled off the line and also had to take evasive action as there were a few tangles ahead of him. We found ourselves with two cars at the bottom of the field by the end of the first lap and it was always going to be hard to recover into the top ten from there. We had decent pace - Zhou showed it when running in clean air after his stop - but that was not enough to make up ground today. In the end, we brought one car home outside the points and had to retire the other with a power unit issue: definitely not the result we hoped for, but at least we’ll have an opportunity to bounce back immediately in Hungary. We’ll analyse today and understand what happened, especially because we expect the weather conditions to be similar next weekend".
Magnussen had a good start; he was the last on the grid and, by a couple of laps, was twelfth. He pitted early, but had then a moment with Latifi which resulted in both cars retiring:
"We gave it our best and I tried very hard today, made some good moves, but at the end of the day, the degradation on the tires was high. The car was great at the beginning of the stints and our pace was fantastic as we saw yesterday in qualifying as well. For some reason we had a lot of degradation and that’s why we couldn’t really fight today".
Also Mick Schumacher pitted early on, then he was tipped into a spin by Zhou and finishe fiftheenth:
"We had a difficult start on the medium tire, it didn’t really work as well as we imagined. We knew it was going to be tough, so we came in early but unfortunately there was a safety car, which meant for a lot of people it was a free stop essentially. With a pit lane like we have here, the difference is quite big, so we were quite far behind and then we had contact with Zhou. Overall, it was quite tough but we learned some things and hopefully we have a better weekend in Budapest".
Guenther Steiner, Haas‘ Team Principal, says that the Safety Car ruined the team’s plans:
"It was all going to plan until the safety car came out and it all went downhill from there. The strategy team did a fantastic job to predict what the tires would do because they did exactly what was predicted. The safety car came out and we had to go and change the tire too early because we were on a two-stop and all the other cars on a one-stop got a free stop, so what can you do. The car once again showed that it’s fast, we just need to regroup and hope that we don’t get unlucky - I don’t even ask for luck".
Mario Isola, Motorsport Director, explains the strategies predicted and those put into place due to the high temperatures:
"In these very hot conditions that peaked at 57 degrees of track temperatures, we thought that two pit stops might be favoured. But in the end, as per our initial forecast, only one stop was needed - the fastest way on paper - thanks to the ability of both the hard and the medium compounds to handle these demanding conditions. There was a high degree of degradation, in line with what we would expect in these temperatures, and some blistering: but nothing that compromised the performance and integrity of the tyres here, at another exciting and unpredictable race".
Now, Max Verstappen has 63 points of detachment from Charles Leclerc, and in the Costructors’ Championship Red Bull has an 82-point lead over Ferrari. One stop until the summer break: the Hungarian Grand Prix, which will takes place on July 29-31.