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Friday running at Circuit Paul Ricard saw plenty of drivers struggling with the record-high track temperatures, but evaluating the battle up-front, the data suggests it will be another clean sweep for Mercedes in their bid to maintain their 100% win rate in 2019.
After analyzing both qualifying and race trims for the Mercedes and Ferrari challenge, the competition up-front is unlikely to be as hot as it was just two weeks ago in Montreal, where Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel grabbed pole from Lewis Hamilton, and looked on course for victory until that controversial penalty that the paddock in France are still debating.
In terms of outright qualifying pace, the ball is very much in the hands of Mercedes. Using a multiplier effect from the times in FP2, it gives us a clear idea of the pecking order come qualifying. Both Mercedes and Ferrari are expected to break the 1 minute-28s barrier, with Mercedes expected to hold a 0.4s advantage over their rivals Mercedes – which suggests more focus on an intra-team battle at Mercedes, rather than a Mercedes vs Ferrari shootout.
Ferrari engines turned down
With the stress of power here at Circuit Paul Ricard, it could be that Ferrari are running with their power units turned down. The evidence from Canada could just suggest this. When Vettel was leading the Canadian Grand Prix, F1 Hub understands Ferrari allowed Vettel to run in higher engine modes for a longer time than planned, in order to hold off Lewis Hamilton given the Scuderia’s win drought, before the penalty was announced of course.
Even more so, Ferrari fitted their new power unit at the Spanish Grand Prix, whilst most of their rivals took upgrades at the last race at Canada, which gives Ferrari more races to cover under this particular power unit.
The speed trap data from FP2 does indeed back the assumption that Ferrari were running lower engine modes. The fastest Ferrari, Leclerc, hit only 329.5 kmph, whilst pacesetter Bottas hit 334 kmph. This was unusual as in 2019 Ferrari normally head the speed traps, which could indicate there is more to come from the Ferrari challenge tomorrow.
Mercedes soared even further ahead of Ferrari in the long-runs. Both teams ran simulations during practice on both the soft and medium tyres, and it quickly became clear that the soft tyre is not likely to be a viable race tyre, with both Mercedes drivers not managing a stint more than four laps on the red-marked rubber.
With medium compound tyre the optimum race tyre, competitiveness on it would be key to success in Sunday’s race. On that front, Mercedes had a clear advantage, with Valtteri Bottas averaging a 1.36.043 on his medium run, whilst Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel averaged a 1.36.790 (outlier laps not included in averages).
With the Mercedes team leading the way in both short and long run teams, Ferrari face an uphill battle to stop the Silver Arrows scoring their 8th victory of the 2019 Formula 1 season.
Valtteri Bottas headed Lewis Hamilton during second practice for the French Grand Prix in boiling hot conditions, as many of the drivers struggled for grip, including championship leader Lewis Hamilton.
Bottas’ margin over team-mate Lewis Hamilton was 0.424, with the Finn setting a 1.30.937, however Hamilton’s lap wasn’t set during his qualifying simulation due to his error, hence that gap is expected to be closed right down come qualifying day.
The Ferrari’s struggled after their strong-showing, with both Leclerc and Vettel more than half a second adrift of Bottas’ flyer.
Story of the session
The session got underway in burning-hot conditions, with Daniil Kvyat first to take to circuit in the Toro Rosso, with Grosjean following suit in the Haas. The first time of the session came by the Russian, which was a 1.35.683, whilst Grosjean massively locked up on his first flyer, and had to back straight off on his fast lap. The Alfa Romeo’s soon took to track, and former Ferrari driver Raikkonen went to the top of the order with a 1.34.486s, with his team-mate slotting into third place. Norris soon went to the top in the McLaren, but the midfield pack were struggling to break the 1 minute-34s barrier.
As the front-runners took to track, Leclerc just about went fastest with a 1.33.152s, however was just 0.091s clear of McLaren’s Lando Norris. Meanwhile, Vettel had to abort his flying lap due to the traffic that held him up. On his next lap, Vettel easily went fastest with a 1.32.763, which set him three tenths clear of his team-mate.
As the Mercedes took to circuit, Bottas went straight to the top of the order with a 1.32.478, with Hamilton only fourth fastest on his first flying lap, and some six tenths off his team-mate’s pace. As Leclerc got another crack at a lap, he reduced the deficit to the Mercedes to just over a tenth. However, Bottas was almost a second clear on his next run.
As Hamilton finally got in a clear lap, he went straight to the top of the order with a 1.31.361, but that was until Bottas could better that with a 1.31.110 in his Mercedes.
The drivers soon headed for their qualifying simulations, Bottas was one of the only ones to get in a clean lap on his first attempt, setting a 1.30.937s, whilst both Vettel and Hamilton made mistakes on their laps – Vettel running wide and the back end stepping out on Hamilton, forcing him to hit the bollard and going off the circuit.
After the drivers finally got in clean runs, Bottas sat at the top of the order, with Hamilton second – but his lap was set on the mediums from early on after failing to set a lap – then came the Ferrari’s of Leclerc and Vettel. After Ferrari’s strong showing in Montreal, the Scuderia dropped more than half a second adrift of Mercedes.
Sebastian Vettel beat Lewis Hamilton to pole position to claim his first pole position since the 2018 German Grand Prix, as Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo popped his Renault into fourth, however both Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen underperformed.
Vettel’s pole time was a 1.10.240s, which gave him a 0.206s advantage over Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, with Charles Leclerc lacking in pace, and finished more than half a second adrift of his Formula 1 team-mate.
Story of the session
As qualifying got underway, the amount of dust strewn onto the circuit meant there was no real rush to take onto circuit. After a couple of minutes, although, Canadian GP race winner Robert Kubica took to circuit first along with his team-mate George Russell.
Lance Stroll, too, was among first to take to circuit after he didn’t even register one timed lap earlier on in FP3, but set a 1.13.219s on his first time, and took him above both the Williams by almost two seconds.
As the front-runners took to circuit, Leclerc set a 1.11.786s, with Vettel’s first lap 0.553s adrift of his team-mate, however the duo were first and second, since rivals Mercedes and Red Bull were yet to set a time.
As Mercedes and Red Bull’s set their laps, Verstappen was an impressive second, with the Mercedes just third and fourth – with Hamilton leading that particular charge.
Once again, the Ferrari’s went for another lap, and Leclerc easily extended his advantage, with a 1.11.481s, edging Vettel by 0.120s, but the real surprise were the two Red Bulls, who were within a tenth.
As the track kept evolving, Mercedes started moving towards the top of the sheets – as Bottas went fastest with a 1.11.229, but that quickly changed, as Vettel and Leclerc soon took over at the top.
As Q1 came to an end, Perez, Raikkonen, Stroll, Russell and Kubica all faced elimination.
As Q2 got underway, Mercedes answered the question everyone was wondering, and both Mercedes took to circuit on the yellow-marked medium tyres, given the high wear numbers on the soft tyres. Ferrari followed suit.
Hamilton’s first lap was a 1.11.336s in his Mercedes, however that time was beaten by Sebastian Vettel by 0.029s, while both Leclerc and Bottas made mistakes on their first laps and had to abort their times. On their next laps, Leclerc went fastest with a 1.11.142s, while Bottas only managed fourth on his next lap, and was lacking more than three tenths on pacesetter Leclerc. However, team-mate Vettel then went on to set a 1.11.142s to go 0.063s faster than his Formula 1 team-mate.
While the front-runners took the medium tyres, the soft-running Pierre Gasly went second fastest, and was just 0.054s adrift off pacesetter Vettel.
As the track continued to evolve, Hamilton soon took to the top of the timesheets with a 1.11.010s, with Bottas going second fastest to make it a Mercedes 1-2 at the top of the order.
As the drivers were completing their final runs, Kevin Magnussen went out at the final corner, which put the red flag out and ruined the laps of many of the driver, including Max Verstappen, who failed to make the cut for Q3.
As Q2 came to an end, Verstappen, Kvyat, Giovinazzi, Albon and Grosjean all faced elimination.
After the long clean-up, the session finally got underway, as the F1 paddock were set for a classic Ferrari vs Mercedes shootout for pole position.
Gasly was first to set a lap, but it was an unimpressive 1.12.185s, before the chaos started.
As the top runners registered their laps, Hamilton edged Vettel out to set a 1.10.493s, heading the Ferrari driver by 0.188s, whilst Charles Leclerc was almost seven tenths adrift in his Ferrari. Bottas, meanwhile, spun at the exit of turn 2, and had to abort his lap.
During the final runs, Vettel sprung a surprise, as he pipped Lewis Hamilton by 0.206s to claim pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix, whilst Ricciardo was up to fourth and out-qualified Daniel Ricciardo.
Sebastian Vettel headed team-mate Charles Leclerc during the final practice for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, as the German edged his Formula 1 team-mate, with the Ferrari team holding a sizable advantage over Mercedes in terms of one-lap pace.
Vettel’s fastest lap was a 1.10.843s, heading his Formula 1 team-mate by 0.139s, with the closest car being Lewis Hamilton, who was 0.393s adrift of the Ferrari, who held a massive straight-line speed advantage down the long straight.
Story of the session
As the session got underway, many of the drivers headed out for installation laps, and there was still quite a lot of waiting to do until the qualifying-simulations came.
The first time of the session came by Robert Kubica, which was a 1.17.718 in his Williams, as he chased gains to match Formula 1 team-mate George Russell. The Polish driver went on to improve on the following flying lap, setting a 1.16.732, and had the entire circuit to himself.
Twenty minutes into the session and there was more action on the track. Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen and Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly were one of the first to lead a group of cars onto circuit to kick off Saturday’s action.
Red Bull’s Gasly soon popped to the top of the time sheets, with a 1.13.991, but was quickly pipped by Raikkonen and Gasly.
The Ferrari’s soon took to track and took to the top of the time-sheets, with Vettel leaded Leclerc with a 1.12.478, heading his team-mate by 0.136s, while Hamilton’s first lap slotted him into third place and 0.256s off the pace. Bottas followed suit and pipped Hamilton off third, but was still unable to touch the Ferrari territory. Meanwhile, Leclerc set a flyer, a 1.11.596s, and was a second clear of the two Mercedes cars. Hamilton followed with a faster lap, but was still half a second adrift of the Monegasque.
As the top runners pushed on in an intriguing Mercedes/Ferrari battle up front, Vettel took second back from Hamilton, but still lacked a tenth to team-mate Leclerc. After a back-up lap, Vettel got another push, and pipped team-mate Leclerc by 0.039s with a 1.11.557s.
As the drivers headed out for their final laps, Vettel jumped to the top of the time-sheets after multiple attempts, setting a 1.10.843s, heading his team-mate by 0.139s, with the Mercedes very much playing second fiddle with Hamilton almost 0.4s adrift, and nearly seven tenths to Bottas.
Ferrari’s headline times during the second practice session for the Canadian Grand Prix have got analysts thinking whether their pace was genuine, or if they simply turned their engine right up. After close analysis with the GPS traces of the teams from Friday running in Montreal, the answer may just have been revealed.
The Ferrari Formula 1 team led a 1-2 finish in FP2, with Charles Leclerc leading team-mate Sebastian Vettel by just under a tenth of a second, with Valtteri Bottas playing second fiddle in the Mercedes, some one tenth back.
GPS traces from the session seem to suggest when Ferrari fitted the softest compound of tyres on Pirelli’s range, the red-marked C5 tyre, they turned their engine modes right up.
A Mercedes Formula 1 engineer claimed that when Ferrari fitted the C5 Pirelli tyre for their qualifying-simulations, they gained 0.4s worth of lap-time just from the power unit, leaving aside the gains from the tyre compounds and a bigger push by the drivers.
“When Ferrari went for soft tires, they got four tenths faster from the engine alone,” a Mercedes Formula 1 engineer said, with access to the GPS traces from Friday’s Formula 1 running in Montreal.
It is, however, worth noting that Ferrari’s power advantage could be retained into qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix. Ferrari had been running the old, first specification engine through Friday practice in Canada, and will fit the updated spec overnight, which could give it a further pace advantage.
While Mercedes brought an engine upgrade on a track where Ferrari are expected to show their hand, the outfit doubts it’s capable of knocking Ferrari off top spot in terms of engine power.
“For sure the engine upgrade is very welcome,” said Bottas, speaking about the new engine upgrade Mercedes are brining to Canada.
“That is thanks to all of the work at Brixworth.
“Obviously it’s something we need to see physically how it actually behaves on-track and everything. We also need to make sure that it’s reliable.
“We’re expecting already from a fresh engine a tiny bit of power gain, but we’re expecting a small step forward.
“We don’t think it’s quite yet enough to match Ferrari’s straight-line speed. They will have the upper-hand on that, but we have our strengths in other areas. I look forward to feeling it on Friday.”
Charles Leclerc headed a Ferrari 1-2, leading team-mate Sebastian Vettel, whilst Lewis Hamilton crashed during the early phases of the session, with Valtteri Bottas sitting pretty just behind the two Ferrari’s during a very hot session in Montreal.
Leclerc’s fastest lap in his Ferrari was a 1.12.177s, edging team-mate Sebastian Vettel out by 0.074s, with the sole remaining Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas just over a tenth adrift, with Hamilton out before the run of qualifying simulations.
Hamilton in the Mercedes wasn’t the only one to have adventures with the barriers, Max Verstappen, too, hit the wall of champions during his fast lap, however the damage wasn’t as lasting as it had proved to be to Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Story of the session
As the session got underway, Kubica was first to take to circuit and set a lap of a 1.21.712 out of the box, as the Polish driver needed to make up time following a missed opening practice session.
The opening part of the session was more lively than FP1 given the rubbered in track, and Sainz soon went fastest with a 1.16.303s, with Albon just 0,015s off the McLaren driver’s best time, however Stroll soon pipped the McLaren driver for top slot.
As the front-runners took to circuit, Vettel went to the top of the time-sheets with a 1.14.036s, however team-mate Leclerc pipped Vettel to the top spot by just 0.027s, however it was just Ferrari out of the big guns who had set a competitive lap. The German, although, found more time next time around with a 1.13.966.
As the Mercedes came out onto circuit, they knocked Ferrari out of the park straight out of the box, with Hamilton’s first lap some 0.8s up on Vettel’s best effort, with Bottas slotting into second just under three tenths adrift of pacesetter Hamilton.
However it wasn’t all plain sailing for Hamilton, as he soon hit the wall at turn 9 and damaged the rear right of his Mercedes, however still made it back to the pits after a long limp down the pit straight.
As the front-runners, except Lewis Hamilton after that crash, took to circuit, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel emerged into top spot and tipped Bottas by 0.060s, with Leclerc just 0.122s off his team-mate’s fastest lap. Charles Leclerc went for another attempt and went to the top of the time-sheets, pipping his team-mate by 0.074s.
Max Verstappen was the next victim to hit the wall, as he was on a competitive qualifying-simulation time until he hit the wall of champions with his front-right, however the impact and hence the consequence wasn’t as bad as the impact Hamilton had with the wall.
Lewis Hamilton continued his form from Monaco and headed Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, as the two Silver Arrows were almost a whole second clear of the rest of the field, whilst Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi was the first man to come into contact with the close proximity Montreal walls.
Hamilton’s fastest lap during the opening session was a 1.12.767, which set the Briton 0.147s clear of team-mate Valtteri Bottas – who led the early stages of the session – with the rest of the field lacking massively to the two Mercedes.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc may have been third fastest in the Ferrari, but the Monegasque was 0.953s adrift of Hamilton’s fastest time, with Vettel, who spun on one of his qualifying-simulation laps, only fifth fastest.
Story of the session
During the early phases of the session, there was little running on a very dusty and hot circuit at Montreal. However, home test driver Nicholas Latifi soon had the circuit to himself, however most of his outing was spent sliding around in an unbalanced Williams paired with the dust strewn around the track.
After almost 30 minutes into the session, the front-runners started taking to circuit, with Verstappen first the big guns to set a timed lap. Upon his second attempt, the Dutchman flew to the top of the order with a 1.15.026.
As the Mercedes and Ferrari’s took the track, and the rubber continued to build, Bottas went to the top of the time-sheets with Verstappen second and Hamilton third. The Ferrari struggled out of the box with Vettel’s first lap, who could only go eight fastest on his first flying lap, but improved to fourth on his next lap – but was still over a second off the pace.
As the dust started to clear and the gremlin was laid down, Mercedes unsurprisingly claimed the early advantage, with Bottas once again heading Hamilton, comfortably having a tenth or so in hand over his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, with Max Verstappen well clear of the struggling Ferrari’s during the early stages.
As the drivers took the track on the softs, Bottas improved his advantage, setting a 1.12.914s, but Hamilton soon went fastest with a 1.12.767, edging his Finnish team-mate by 0.147s.
As the track was hotting up, Giovinazzi went into the barrier at turn 9 and incurred a puncture. However, due to the nature of the impact he soon stopped on track, triggering the virtual safety car.
As Ferrari pushed for improvements after the clean-up cleared, Charles Leclerc jumped up to third fastest behind the two Mercedes cars, however still almost a second adrift.
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Lewis Hamilton won the Monaco Grand Prix despite a tyre problem, which set Max Verstappen on his gearbox for almost the whole race, however still edged Vettel, Bottas and Verstappen off for the victory in Monaco.
While Max Verstappen finished second on the road, he was demoted down to fourth following his five second time penalty for an unsafe release early on in the race, promoting Vettel up to second place.
Story of the session
As the lights went green, the Mercedes got away clean with Hamilton clear of Bottas, whilst Verstappen tried to go down the inside of Bottas – but the Finn held the Mercedes around the outside and maintained second.
After a disappointing qualifying, Charles Leclerc was up to 13th place after the first lap, however faced an investigation for cutting the first corner on the opening lap.
As the mid-field teams were increasingly slow – upwards of 3 seconds a lap slower than the lead cars – Leclerc lunged on Grosjean, however on the following lap it didn’t quite work out on Hulkenberg, which caused a puncture and got the local man in on the next lap for a new set of tyres.
The shed of carbon fibre scattered on the circuit as a result of Leclerc’s puncture triggered the safety car. This prompted the leaders into the pits for the first round of pit-stops, and as a result of the two Mercedes cars running in close proximity, Verstappen jumped Bottas, as the Silver Arrows double stacked.
However, the result of that scrap in the pit-lane meant Bottas picked up a ‘suspected’ puncture, and pitted again, but only lost the one position to Sebastian Vettel, dropping to fourth. Although he lost the place, the Finn took on the hard tyres, which were expected to get him to the end of the grand prix.
On Lap 18, Leclerc’s home race came to a crashing end, after making another stop Ferrari called it a day, after the Monegasque damaged his floor, given the speed he drove back to the pits with his punctured tyre.
The stewards still punished Verstappen for the puncture of Valtteri Bottas, as the Dutchman received a 5-second time penalty for the unsafe release in pits, which prompted him to push Hamilton, as passing the British driver would be key in saving his race.