As we move towards the half-way point in the 2019 season, the title looks wrapped up. Mercedes remain in superlative form, as their 100% record remains going into this race. But will this finally be the weekend where someone manages to stop the Silver Arrows?
We continue to wait on a turnaround from the chasing pack, which has allowed Mercedes to push out in front and allowed the team to amass a lead of over 100 points in the Constructors’ Championship already. Lewis Hamilton has used the Mercedes dominance to build up a big advantage at the top of the Drivers’ standings too, and he will be attempting to add to that with another victory. Given the season so far, it’s hard to look to anyone but Hamilton as a potential winner here.
After a long break, the French Grand Prix returned to the schedule in 2018. This race remains one of the most historic in the sport, which dates back as far as 1895. It’s the final leg in this Francophone triple-header, following visits to Monaco and Canada in the last few weeks.
|8/21||France||Circuit Paul Ricard||309km / 53 Laps|
|Date||Start Time||Finish Time||Forecast Conditions||TV Coverage|
|Practice 1||Fri 21st June||10:00||11:30||Dry / 22°||–|
|Practice 2||Fri 21st June||14:00||15:30||Dry / 22°||–|
|Practice 3||Sat 22nd June||11:00||12:30||Dry / 24°||–|
|Qualifying||Sat 22nd June||14:00||15:30||Dry / 24°||Sky F1|
|Race||Sun 23rd June||14:10||16:10||Dry / 25°||Sky F1|
Last Season’s Result (2018)
Last year, Hamilton claimed maximum points at the French Grand Prix, another positive result for Mercedes. He left that race with a 14 point lead over Sebastian Vettel in the Drivers’ Championship, which pushed the defending champion on towards his latest league title.
The real hope for the chasing pack will be the potential for a repeat of Valtteri Bottas’s poor finish in France. He had moved into second on the grid after qualifying, but he slipped down to seventh by the end of the weekend. Given that recent weeks have seen Bottas struggling, we are likely to have another different challenger going after Hamilton in this race.
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||4||18|
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||5||12|
|8||Carlos Sainz Jr||Renault||7||4|
Race News: Red Bull Revving up
While the season so far has been dominated by Mercedes, Red Bull are aiming to do something about that. They have a more powerful engine for this race courtesy of Honda, which puts them in the frame for a strong display. That’s good news for Max Verstappen, who heads into this race in need of the boost as his team look to match the young driver’s ambitions.
Meanwhile, Ferrari are hoping a few minor tweaks can put them in the race with Mercedes. However, given that the Silver Arrows are doing their usual routine of acting like the underdogs, it is unlikely that there will be any real fear there about the Scuderia’s prospects.
Analysis: Hamilton to Extend Lead
Things are working out well for Lewis Hamilton, who has seen the consistency from teammate Valtteri Bottas disappear. Now Hamilton is looking towards a potential title challenge from Sebastian Vettel – who sits 62 points off the lead following a poor campaign. While he’s been in second place in the last two races, he’s miles behind the reigning champion when it comes to winning the Drivers’ Championship this season.
Hamilton has won five of his last six races this season, as he continues his chase to emulate Michael Schumacher. He now has 78 race wins and he’s heading for a sixth world title. If he continues this current sweet spot, then he can move even closer to catching the legendary German this weekend. Based on recent history and the strength of the field, Hamilton’s run can continue for a little while longer.
Final Verdict: Hamilton To Win
With the recent form considered, we struggle to see who could challenge Hamilton successfully this weekend. The reigning champion comes into this race on the back of three straight wins, while he also landed a win at this circuit just last year. No one has been able to catch Mercedes this year, while Hamilton has been a cut above for almost a full season. The champion has won 13 of his last 18 races, opening up a 29 point lead as he looks to retain the title once again. Despite that form, you can find Hamilton at odds of 8/11 to win this race, so we think he’s well priced to pull off a victory on Sunday.
In addition, we see some value in backing Max Verstappen in the race for a top three finish. Despite being in and around the podium places all season, the Red Bull driver is 5/2 to secure a top three finish. With Red Bull getting a power boost, Verstappen should improve here. That has us backing him to land in the top three, behind another success for the rampant Hamilton.
About the French Grand Prix
The French Grand Prix makes its return to the F1 calendar after controversially being removed due to financial issues in 2008. It’s taken them a decade to get back on track and the host course sees a return to the much-loved Circuit Paul Ricard, which has hosted numerous times from 1971 through to 1990.
The grand prix is actually the oldest in the world and was first run since 1906. But, it wasn’t an official championship race until 1950 where Juan Manel Fangio won the race in his Alfa Romeo. The Circuit Paul Ricard will be one of the fastest on rotation and cars are able to take advantage of long straights and tight hairpins, encouraging passing manoeuvres as a result.
Cars have a long run down to the first corner, which sees them tackle the first of the ‘s’ bends. The driver will be required to take advantage of the short apex into turn 1 and then accelerate through to turn 2. The line of entry into the corner is the most important factor here. Too wide and they won’t be able to get traction to come out turn 2. Too tight and they will take too much kerb, throwing off the aerodynamics of the cars.
A medium straight is then taken to the run in to turn 3. The drivers are required to break hard here and its imperative that they hit their breaking zone perfectly in what is the slowest part of the track. They will need to coast round both turns 4 and 5 before starting to get on the power for turn 6.
This section is also seen as one of the more popular when it comes to overtaking. The fast entry speed means that cars with additional downforce are able to break that little bit later. It’s fairly narrow through here as well so once the car is able to get in front, they are often able to hold position, even though they might not necessarily be on the optimum racing line.
The cars then are at almost full throttle out of turn 6 and then through turn 7. Some cars may have to lift off slightly through here, but the braver drivers and those with better cars will be able to hit the longest straight on the circuit, reaching speeds well in excess of 330kmph.
Turns 8 and 9 and the newest additions to the track and have been included in order to slow cars down a little. A tight turn through 8 means that drivers again need to get their breaking zoen just right in or order to once again attack through turn 9. Another long straight meets the drivers in the run in to turn 10.
Whilst not flat out through 10, it’s a fast sweeping corner that the drivers simply love. It’s a corner that F1 cars are made for as they are able to achieve amazing grip levels and maintain any speed that was carried from the long straight.
Turn 11 is the longest corner on the race track. It’s a short apex for the drivers as they start from side, clip the kerb about 2/3rds through the corner and then move out wide again to gain the best racing line. Whilst this is a fast section, it’s one that can catch drivers out if they aren’t careful.
The final section is where the drivers are able to either attack or maintain their position. Turn 12 allows for another sweeping corner before accelerating hard once again through turn 13 at full throttle. Turn 14 see’s the cars start to slow in preparation for turn 15. If the driver is unable to get the right breaking area here, they risk overrunning the track and losing track position. Braking whilst turning is often hard for the drivers and this is something that they need to be wary of.
The final turn, 15, is a tight hairpin. It’s the last chance for any kamikaze dives on the inside to move up the rankings. The cars then accelerate back across the start finish line and through the DRS zone to complete their lap.
1988-1990 – PROST DOMINATES
Alain Prost’s three wins on his home circuit from 1988 to 1990 still remains a record today for the most consecutive French Grand Prix victories. It was in the middle of his battle with the late Ayrton Senna and whilst he won the three races, he ultimately won just one of the Drivers’ championships, losing the other two to that of Senna.