Canada review to be heard on Friday
Ferrari’s request for a review into Sebastian Vettel’s race losing penalty will be heard Friday lunchtime at the French Grand Prix. The Stewards who made the decision in Montreal will reconvene in France to hear from Ferrari representatives, who are expected to present new evidence in the case.
Their task is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the case to be fully reopened and the decision to penalise Vettel in his incident with Lewis Hamilton reviewed.
Earlier this week the manufacturer submitted the ‘right of review’ under the International Sporting Code on Monday with the team has been adamant that Vettel did nothing wrong in the incident, which earned him a five-second time penalty.
But Ferrari’s new evidence will be judged on whether ‘a significant and relevant new element is discovered which was unavailable to the parties seeking the review at the time of the Competition concerned, whether or not the stewards have already given a ruling.’
The stewards will decide whether Ferrari’s new evidence fits the criteria and the case should be reopened. Friday’s hearing will determine whether this is the case.
Should they agree then, the regulations add: “These stewards or, failing this, those designated by the FIA, must meet (in person or by other means) on a date agreed amongst themselves, summoning the party or parties concerned to hear any relevant explanations and to judge in the light of the facts and elements brought before them.”
Ferrari hoping for a French turning point
Ferrari will be hoping that this weekend is a turning point in its development programme as it rolls out a number of updates which it hopes will shift the fundamental design concept of the SF90.
Following the promising winter, Ferrari has been out developed and struggled to convert the pace in testing into race pace. Most of its problems have come from the difficult keeping the SF90’s tyres in the right temperature window, which the team puts down to a lack of downforce.
In simple terms, the aerodynamic performance of an F1 car is always based on a trade-off between downforce and drag. Increasing downforce helps in the corners but often comes at the cost of extra drag on the straights, limiting straight-line performance.
Ferrari’s problems have also been combined with the change to thinner threaded tyres. They were developed to combat overheating, and as such don’t retain as much heat as last years tyres.
Last month, team principal Mattia Binotto said Ferrari had already started re-evaluating its car concept in order to trade some of its straight-line speed for peak downforce in the hope of overcoming the issue.
Paul Ricard should be the first race where the change of concept comes, however ahead of the weekend, Binotto made clear it was only the first steps on a new development path.
He told ESPN, “In France, we will have a few small evolutions, elements that represent for us a useful step in defining the direction we will take in developing the car.”
“What we will be bringing won’t be the solution to our problems, but the technical feedback we get from these evolutions will be important for the next steps we take”
The circuit is the South of France however shares the same characteristics with the Circuit de Catalunya, where Ferrari struggled, than Montreal, where it finally looked competitive again.
Honda brings upgrades to France
Honda will give an engine upgrade to both Red Bull and Toro Rosso for this weekends French Grand Prix. Its four drivers Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly and, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Alex Albon will all receive a fresh unit.
The move means a grid penalty for Kvyat for exceeding the permitted usage of engine parts in a season. Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon will upgrade at a later date to avoid both cars incurring penalties at one race.
Honda’s technical director Toyoharu Tanabe says the unit was more powerful but had not yet reached the level of Mercedes and Ferrari. He told BBC News “It’s a step in the right direction and we will continue our development throughout the rest of the season.”
Tanabe said that the improvements were “mainly” in the internal combustion engine and turbocharger. Verstappen finished fifth in Montreal, while team-mate Gasly crossed the line in eighth. Kvyat claimed tenth
He says that the new power unit had been developed with Honda’s aeroplane jet engine department in the area of aerodynamic design. There are many technical features in both and says last year collaboration rapidly improved the engine.
However, both the Toro Rosso’s of Kvyat and Albon will receive a grid penalty because he has already used the permitted a maximum of three internal combustion engines this season, as has Albon.
The new-spec engine also takes Verstappen and Gasly to their maximum of ICEs, which means it is inevitable they will receive grid penalties later in the season
Hamilton misses Thursday’s media day
Lewis Hamilton was absent on Thursday ahead of the French Grand Prix, as he attended a memorial event for Karl Lagerfeld. The Englishman was a close friend of German fashion designer Lagerfeld, who died aged 85 earlier this year after battling heart, lung and kidney problems.
The team granted his request to attend the memorial event in Paris on Thursday and this was granted by Toto Wolff. He will arrive at Paul Ricard later in the day.
In recent years, the five times champion has been keen on wider interests away from the sport and has built a relationship with Lagerfeld during his life, Hamilton will be present for the planned memorial as part of Paris Men’s Fashion Week at the Grand Palais.
There will be no public funeral only a private service in Nanterre, at the time of his death meaning Thursday was an opportunity for those who knew him to attend a commemorative ceremony.
It’s the second time in three races that Hamilton sat out the media day in Monaco, following the death of three times champion and Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda.
This weekend, Hamilton will look to extend his World Championship advantage. He leads Sebastian Vettel by sixty-two points after the German demoted to second behind Hamilton after the stewards punished him with a five-second penalty for running off the circuit at the third corner before re-joining the track in an “unsafe manner”.
Montreal a message to Renault critics
Daniel Ricciardo has been invigorated by his recent performances for Renault, which has been mirrored by the atmosphere at the team.
Ricciardo turned in his best weekend of the season so far at the Canadian Grand Prix, qualifying fourth and finishing fifth at the circuit he claimed his maiden F1 victory at in 2014.
One of the stand out moments was the entertaining fight with Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas. Ricciardo turned in some stern defensive moves to keep the quicker silver car at bay for several laps, something Bottas admitted afterwards had been hard but fair racing.
There were questions last year when the Australian decided to move from Red Bull to Renault for this season and Ricciardo admitted his attitude to that battle was influenced by that.
Asked if the duel with Bottas felt a bit like making a statement to critics of that switch, Ricciardo told ESPN, “Yeah, I think there was more. I was running fourth at the time, so I wanted to fight as hard as I could to keep that.”
“I knew the odds were against me. It just felt too easy to let him go, and maybe it would have been better for my tyres and my race in the end. I was like ‘let’s put up a fight’. I knew I was clearly the underdog in that battle.”
He added that it was a test for him to keep Bottas behind, with his aim to keep the Mercedes behind for as long as he was able to.
Changes to pit entry
Organisers of the French Grand Prix have changed the layout of the pit lane entry in an attempt to avoid the problems that occurred during last year’s race.
A tricky entry last year, which had a tight right/left turn in front of the Mercedes pits prompted concerns from drivers about safety, and the FIA ended up cutting the speed limit from 80km/h to 60 km/h.
This year the entry now runs from Turn Fourteen with drivers now peeling to the right of the circuit and then run down a bespoke pitlane channel that brings them in a much safer route into the pits. The tweak has also meant the safety car line 1 has been moved.
The speed limit will remain at 60km/h however, due to the narrow nature of the Paul Ricard pitlane.
The pit exit has been altered, being widened and extended towards Turn 1 to allow drivers to build up more speed before they rejoin the racing line.
The Weekend Ahead
This weekend on paper is a race where Mercedes will be strong again, that makes the question of whether Ferrari is able to beat them on the track. But the biggest lesson from Montreal is that Mercedes now have a fight on their hands and can they be beaten.
The biggest talking point is going to be the continuing fallout from Canada over Sebastian Vettel being stripped of the win. Drivers will bear that in mind, and we will be hoping for a weekend without any controversy, as we hope Montreal proved.
Naturally, the pressure will be on Romain Grosjean and Piere Gasly at there home race, they will want good results. But this could be a tougher circuit for Red Bull, however its another good test for Honda and whether they have made progress.
There could be some great midfield scraps as overtaking was common in last years race. But it could be difficult race for them to remain on the lead lap, as the faster cars outpaced half the field. It can also be a close battle in the midfield, that can cause VSC’s and affect the leaders.
Retirements could be common, two reasons why this is a demanding circuit on the cars and the drivers are able to follow and overtake. This can cause accidents.
Join us for full coverage of the French Grand Prix with reports on our website. Live coverage begins 11:45 CEST / 10:45 BST Saturday for third practice, qualifying 14:45/13:45. Race coverage Sunday 14:40/13:40 lights out 15:10/14:10