.French Grand Prix Tips and Preview by James Punt
Lewis Hamilton was handed the Canadian Grand Prix by the stewards and is now top of the standings. He finished 2nd behind Vettel, but a 5 second penalty cost the Ferrari man the race. The Formula 1 roadshow rolls into France this weekend. As ever, our F1 expert James Punt has produced an in depth preview. Check out his free French Grand Prix tips below…
French Grand Prix Preview: A Decent Weekend Of Racing Ahead
This will be only the second Grand Prix to be held on the Paul Ricard circuit in its current guise so there is no great past form to go on. Last year’s race showed us that the track does allow for overtaking and we should have some decent racing.
Mercedes qualified 1st and 2nd but pole sitter Bottas was hit by Vettel at the first corner and they had try and recover their race from that point. Vettel was given a 5 second time penalty for his error (where have we heard that before?) but he made it all the way up to 5th having found himself 17th after his collision with Bottas. Hamilton won the race and took the lead in the World Championship as a result. He was seven seconds clear of Verstappen in second place with Raikkonen third in the other Ferrari a further 18 seconds back.
There was another collision on the first lap which saw Ocon and Gasly, two French drivers, retiring from the race. The first few corners are tricky and there is a very good chance that there will be some broken carbon fibre very early on.
The track was and is used as a test facility because the lay out is a good all-round test of a car’s performance. There is a full mix of corners from very slow, through medium pace and a flat out curve, along with some long straights to test the power units.
Track Could Suit Mercedes
Which car will it suit? Very probably Mercedes once again. Ferrari will have the advantage on the straights which accounts for about 70% of the lap but Mercedes will be able to perform better in the corners. Sector one will be close, sector two should see Ferrari faster but Mercedes will be much quicker in sector three. Ferrari are expecting this weekend to be tougher for them relative to Mercedes as the track is more like Barcelona than Montreal.
Ferrari has decided to change the concept of their car to get more downforce and swapping straight line speed for better cornering. That is not the work of a moment and we might not see any big changes until after the summer break.
Power Unit Problems
One potential problem for Mercedes is a return of the hydraulic problems they had in Canada. The Mercedes power unit in Lance Strolls Racing point had to be changed after a fiery failure. Mercedes also had a problem on Hamilton’s power unit before the race which very nearly caused him to miss the race. Mercedes say they have traced the problem with Stroll’s engine to have been a spark plug problem and they have taken steps to remedy it.
Barcelona is the other track on the calendar which is extensively used for testing and that may prove to be a reasonable form guide. Mercedes was 1st and 2nd in qualifying there with Bottas on pole, as he was here in France last year. Vettel was 3rd, 0.27 seconds off the pole time while Verstappen split the two Ferrari’s in 4th place. It was a mistake by Leclerc which allowed that to happen and Red Bull should be a close third at Paul Ricard.
French Grand Prix Tips: Bottas Looks Value For Pole
Bottas qualified well clear in Spain, over 0.5 seconds faster than Hamilton and with this track looking very Mercedes friendly it is likely to be a matter of will it be Hamilton or Bottas on pole. Hamilton is 4-3 up in qualifying this year so there has not been a lot in it. Bottas was very poor in Canada, only qualifying 6th and finishing the race 4th.
Is Bottas version 2.0 cracking under pressure or can he gather himself together and strike back? He is 29 points adrift of Hamilton and it is 5-2 to the Brit in terms of the race finishes. If Bottas has a genuine hope of winning the title he needs a good weekend and he has been more competitive in qualifying than in the races.
French Grand Prix Tips: 2 points Bottas to be fastest qualifier @ 3.25 generally available
Red Bull will have the benefit of the third power unit upgrade from Honda. Any further upgrades will incur grid penalties, but they have to take some pain as Honda slowly closes the gap to Mercedes and Honda. Verstappen is keeping tabs on Vettel in the Championship, only 16 points adrift. He qualified just 0.085 seconds behind Vettel in Spain and perhaps the new Honda upgrade will be enough to more than close that sort of gap. We could have a real race between the Red Bulls and Ferrari this weekend. Verstappen beat the two Ferrari’s in Spain to get his second podium of the season.
French Grand Prix Tips: 2 points Max Verstappen to finish on the podium @ 3.50 generally available
Best of the rest at Barcelona was Haas who qualified 7th and 8th. They do still have the fourth quickest car on many circuits and this should be one of them. However, nothing ever goes right for them in the race but they did have a double points finish in Spain (7th and 10th). They tend to be at their best in qualifying, but they continue to struggle with the tyres over a race distance.
The weather forecast for the weekend is for sunny, hot and dry conditions for all three days. That will be music to Haas’ ears. They have real problems getting the tyres hot enough to work correctly so a high ambient temperature usually helps them mask this problem. Expect to see them qualify well, they were 7th and 8th in both qualifying and the race in Spain so a repeat of that would be no surprise. Magnussen was best of the rest here last year finishing 6th.
It does take a leap of faith to back Haas. For all their pace they have scored just 16 points all season. Magnussen has just two top ten finishes, 6th in Australia and 7th in Spain. It is that 7th in Spain which suggest that they have the right machinery for this track and the high temperatures will help them perform to the best of their abilities.
French Grand Prix Tips: 4 points Magnussen to finish in the top 10 @ 1.95 with Sportingbet
French Grand Prix Tips: 1 point Magnussen to finish in the top 6 @ 6.00 with Sportingbet
Other notable performances at Barcelona saw Tor Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat qualifying and finishing 9th. There was another strong performance from Carlos Sainz who finished 8th despite starting 12th. Apart from that there was very little of note in the race.
This being the French Grand Prix, Renault will be brining plenty of upgrades for their car which is on an upward trajectory performance wise in any case. They qualified 4th and 7th in Montreal and finished 6th and 7th. That was Renaults best points haul since they returned to the sport in 2016.
That has moved them up to 5th place in the constructor’s championship and just two points behind McLaren in 4th. Expect another good showing from the Regie. Ricciardo has settled in now and he is bossing Nico Hulkenberg. A top 6 for the Aussie this weekend? Not out of the question but they are wary of the threat posed by Haas.
The upgrades will not be so big that it is a total change of spec. It is just a continuation of their development plan. There is talk that an improvement of 0.5 second is hoped for. Their power unit has improved and the reliability problems that were dragging them down earlier in the season have been fixed which is allowing them to run in more powerful modes.
With Kvyat’s grid penalty weakening his chances of another top 10 finish Renault must fancy their chances of getting both cars home in the points on home soil. The odds are not brilliant, but they should be competitive this weekend.
French Grand Prix Tips: 2 points Renault to have a double points finish @ 2.50 with Ladbrokes
Toro Rosso continues to score points at almost every race and Kvyat has had three consecutive top 10s. He has to be considered for a top ten finish at every race. Like Red Bull they will have an upgraded Honda power unit from this weekend. Only Kvyat will get the upgrade and he will have to take a grid penalty. So, points this weekend will be more difficult. But, at least he will have a bit more power to help him recover. Red Bull and Toro Rosso are happy to take some pain as Honda closes the gap to the top power units.
Racing Point just haven’t got going and have just one points scoring finish since their double points finish in Azerbaijan. Lance stroll had a good race in Canada, finishing 9th having started in 17th. McLaren are making good progress despite no points in Canada.
Sainz Looking More Competitive
Sainz qualified 9th but he got a 3 place grid penalty for blocking another car on Q2. He then just failed to get the car home in the points after his tyres gave up in the dying laps. It must be said that the Renault powered cars were quite competitive in Canada. There has been definite steady improvement in that department.
Sainz is a strong contender for another top 10 but his odds of 1.57 aren’t great value. Especially bearing in mind the good performances expected from Renault and Haas this weekend.
Sauber has fallen away badly after a good start. Raikkonen had consecutive point’s finishes in the first four races. However, since then the team has not picked up a single point. Their design concept is much the same as Ferrari’s and it may be suffering similar problems. It will just be harder for Sauber to fix them with their modest budget.
Williams remain pointless in more ways than one.