Round 8, 2018: France
Today, we welcome F1 back to France for the first time since 2008. The track is flat, with 167 possible layouts. But F1 will use the full 5.8km. The long mistral straight; should suit Mercedes for this meeting, especially as they bring their new 2nd generation engines after a delay in Canada. This was true in quali; with Hamilton leading a 1-2. It seems that Ferrari will need luck if they want to help Vettel's title contest or claw points back in the constructor's table. Meanwhile, as we've been away, there have been changes at Red-Bull with a new Honda partnership inbound prompting doubts in Daniel Ricciardo's future. That is for a different article, it will not impact on smaller-than-usual sections below. I hope you enjoyed the race!
Race Result: Lewis Hamilton (1st) & Valtteri Bottas (7th) Points Total (after this round):237 Qualifying/Grid: HAM: 1st (1:30.029) & BOT 2nd (1:30.147) Events & Analysis: Mercedes' confident performance in qualifying was immediately marred by a Ferrari-induced spin into turn 1. As Vettel and Bottas vied side by side, the Finn drew the short straw and ended up at the back of the field; only being partially saved from a long afternoon by the emergence of the safety car. Whilst Hamilton easily stretched his legs at the front of the field, it was interesting to see that Bottas was having a harder time of Vettel of making it through traffic. This is in-arguably a hang-over from Mercedes' development strategy of having a car run well in clean air. Hamilton claims a third win and re-takes the lead of the Championship whilst Ferrari lose ground overall.
Race Result: Kimi Raikkonen (3rd) & Sebastian Vettel (5th) Points Total (after this round): 214 Qualifying/Grid: VET: 3rd (1:30.400) & RAI: 6th (1:31.057) Events & Analysis: Form continued overnight following a messy lap for Vettel in Q3; the German shunting into Valtteri Bottas on the opening lap to not only drop to the back of the grid with a damaged front wing, but also pick up a 5 sec penalty. Though the latter proved inconsequential, initial impact really hindered Seb's race despite a great show of overtaking through the field that saw him 7th by lap 18. Raikkonen meanwhile, as Vettel struggled on older tyres, kept his head down & did well to claim his 4th podium.
Race Result: Max Verstappen (2nd) & Daniel Ricciardo (4th) Points Total (after this round): 164 Qualifying/Grid: VER: 4th (1:30.705) & RIC: 5th (1:30.895) Events & Analysis: Both Verstappen and Ricciardo kept themselves clean at the start, thus capitalising on the chaos ahead. Whilst the rain Daniel Ricciardo was hunting for didn't arrive, he hunted down Sainz well for an early 3rd place before pit-stops and a good move from Raikkonen put him into 4th. Verstappen, despite the threatening from the weather, pitted well for softs on lap 16 and, with consistent pace and good defending, maintained the advantage he gleaned from Vettel and Bottas' collision.
Race Result: Carlos Sainz (8th) & Nico Hulkenberg (9th) Points Total (after this round): 62 Qualifying/Grid: SAI: 7th (1:32.126) & HUL: 12th (1:32.115) Events & Analysis: Carlos Sainz had a great start, rising up 4 places to cling to this 3rd by lap 8. Whilst he sunk to 5th via two overtakes, one by Ricciardo, in quick succession worse was yet to come. With both a bad call from Renault to pit him into slower traffic and a loss of power on lap 50 he had to settle for 8th place. Hulkenberg, meanwhile was good value for money on his soft tyres; making them last a good distance. They extend their advantage over the teams below who as we will now discuss...floundered.
Race Result: Stoffel Vandoorne (12th) & Fernando Alonso (DNF) Points Total (after this round): 40 Qualifying/Grid: ALO: 16th (1:32.976) & VAN: 18th (1:33.162) Events & Analysis: Alonso's third retirement in a row (complaining of "no brakes" a few laps earlier) plus a terrible team qualifying performance means McLaren, after a decent start to the year, have truly fallen off a cliff. Although Alonso is no-doubt tired from his LeMans win with Toyota, he did a good job recovering from an uncharacteristic spin to the back of the field. Vandoorne was ninth at highest, but drifted to 12th and even behind Alonso before the unfortunate Spaniard's retirement. McLaren must do better, especially with one member of staff stating the atmosphere is "toxic"at the factory.
Race Result: Esteban Ocon (DNF) & Sergio Perez (DNF) Points Total (after this round): 28 Qualifying/Grid: OCO: 11th (1:32.075) & PER: 13th (1:32.454) Events & Analysis: Another weekend ending far below their usual high standards. But this time it wasn't their fault. Ocon lost a wheel due to a collision with a clumsy Pierre Gasly and then, after running just out of the points, Perez retired on lap 30 with an engine issue. After a qualifying of 11th and 13th they could have been aiming at least some low points to pressure on McLaren, with the woking team performing poorly. But they missed this opportunity. They desperately need to recover their consistency.
Race Result: Kevin Magnussen (6th) & Romain Grosjean (11th) Points Total (after this round): 27 Qualifying/Grid: MAG: 9th (1:32.930) & GRO: 10th (No Time In Q3...Q2: 1:31.472 ) Events & Analysis: Grosjean's crash in qualifying 3 meant the started 10th below his team-mate. With this performance he now enters 8 rounds in 2018 with 0 points, where as last year he had 10. Magnussen, meanwhile rose up to 5th via lap 1 carnage and then slowly slipped down to 9th after some close battles. But, despite 'what-could-have-beens' the American team have risen up a place in the standings and are beginning to breathe down Force-India's neck. Mainly thanks to Kevin Magnussen.
Race Result:Brendon Hartley (15th) & Pierre Gasly (DNF) Points Total (after this round): 19 Qualifying/Grid: GAS: 14th (1:32.460) & HAR: 20th w/penalties (1:33.025) Events & Analysis: As Brendon Hartley started last and picked his way 7 places up the grid, Pierre Gasly decided to miss his braking zone and smash into Ocon on the first turn; thus eliminating 2/3 of the French drivers. From there, Hartley regrettably slipped back to 15th place; second last of the remaining runners. STR-Honda now slip a place in the constructors standings.
Race Result: Charles LeClerc (10th) & Marcus Ericsson (13th) Points Total (after this round): 13 Qualifying/Grid: LEC: 8th (1:32.635) & ERI: 15th (1:32.820) Events & Analysis: Another stellar weekend from Charles LeClerc! Especially his amazing 8th placed qualifying. With rumours now circulating that he will join the Ferrari main team from next year, given that Ricciardo rumours have cooled, this will only help his case. Whilst Marcus Ericsson was characteristically anonymous, LeClerc was fighting left right and centre against faster cars and more experienced drivers after rising to 6th on the opening lap. With another point & strong performance from Sauber they are beginning to look better than a weak McLaren for a start!
Race Result: Sergey Sirotkin (15th) & Lance Stroll (DNF) Points Total (after this round): 4 Qualifying/Grid: SIR: 19th (1:33.636) & STR: 20th (1:33.729) Events & Analysis: Things did not get any better for Williams this weekend, despite a deceptive rise of 7 (Sirotkin) and 5 (Stroll) places on the opening lap. Poor qualifying performance, near half a second from Vandoorne in 18th, showed that their car is so far from being competitive that it is almost a case of turning to next season development before too long, in order to not suffer this fate again. Stroll did his best with a bad deal but with a puncture with 3 laps to go suffered another early retirement.