The French Grand Prix saw Mercedes take there eighth back to back win of the season. F1 has become a bit boring say some, I can see where they are coming from, but I believe you cannot blame Lewis Hamilton or Mercedes for that.
Paul Ricard we all knew ahead of the weekend would be a circuit which favoured the Silver Arrows, and from the start, they were on the pace. Ferrari had brought upgrades to this race, however they still weren’t able to deliver the performance needed to beat Mercedes.
Hamilton played a major part, we knew that the circuit was one which favoured his driving style. It was one where he was on it, as it suited his attacking nature allowing him to take pole, by two and a half tenths. We have seen throughout his career his ability to pull it out the bag when it matters.
So this season has become an inter Mercedes battle, something we were not expecting and they have bettered their own records until this season they hadn’t won eight races in a row, with most of them being one-twos. The pressure may be getting to Valtteri Bottas a bit, we need him to challenge Hamilton.
Hamilton said after the race, “I empathise with the fans watching, I empathise with you guys coming every week. For a race like today, in my heart, I’ve just raced my heart out and I’ll continue to do the same thing but for you, it might not be so exciting to watch. So I empathise with that.”
Mercedes aren’t wholly responsible for the position they are in, they are just better at these regulations.
In France, James Allison explained in a feature on Sky F1, that the front suspension arrangement Mercedes currently use, and how that compares to the active suspension systems of the 1980s and early 1990s, and addresses theories about the W10’s rear suspension.
This shorter wheelbase has allowed Mercedes to better manage its tyre wear and unlock performance. The key thing is Pirelli has changed the tyre gauge to a thinner one this year, and that has favourited Mercedes who struggled with overheating the tyres when compared to Ferrari and this isn’t an issue anymore. But you already know all these things.
Another story which played a part in Mercedes weekend was the underperformance of Sebastian Vettel, while teammate Charles Leclerc was on the pace. This could be a headache for Ferrari, asking the same question about are they backing the right driver.
Again, Leclerc emerged as Ferrari’s best driver, he scored another podium. Leclerc was the stronger of the two, and during the closing stages was chasing down Bottas. The battle was what we needed, his third podium in eight races this year, which has helped cut the deficit to Max Verstappen in the drivers’ championship to thirteen points.
This was also billed as the race where Ferrari should have fought back, although the upgrades were never expected to transform the car. Ferrari has had the top speed advantage over Mercedes, however, has not got the aero package right allowing Mercedes to gain in the corners.
The other big story in the race was McLaren, from the start of the weekend they established themselves as best of the rest. This shows the team has made a lot of progress and has the right structure in place, allowing them to make inroads into the best of the rest.
They were on course for sixth with Carlos Sainz and seventh with Lando Norris until a late hydraulics problem slowed his pace dropped him to ninth.
Compared to last years race where they were twelfth and sixteenth, they have got the car to be able to challenge in the midfield and slowly have become the midfield leaders. The teams qualifying and race results at Paul Ricard were in stark contrast to last year when they were eliminated in Q1 and finished outside the points.
McLaren could become a big player in the battle for fourth place, this has also been a steady trend of improvement which has taken them to fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship. The new structure of McLaren is already paying off.
The other story is continuing to be about penalties, as the ‘right of review’ against Sebastian Vettel’s penalty in Montreal was dropped. A GPDA meeting in France suggested the drivers want to consider ways that the FIA’s International Sporting Code can be improved to allow more freedoms.
This has not been ruled out by race director Michael Masi, but I agree its something we cannot fast track and risk getting it wrong. This I feel will be a longer-term task, which may not come in until 2021.