Carlos Sainz Jnr, Renault, Paul Ricard, 2018

One-stop strategies expected again at Paul Ricard

2018 French Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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Mercedes’ strong showing on the first day of practice for the French Grand Prix was not unexpected. The similarities the track’s layout and surface have to those at the Circuit de Catalunya, where Mercedes finished one-two, were an obvious pointer.

But the seven-tenths margin Lewis Hamilton had over his closest rival is surely an exaggeration. Even if, as Mercedes point out, they haven’t turned up their new-specification engines to the fullest yet.

Sebastian Vettel in particular has consistently made big lap time gains from Friday to Saturday so far this year. The driver who’s taken four of the seven pole positions so far this year seemed to acknowledge as much on Friday at Paul Ricard as he indicated he was not unduly concerned about his car’s one-lap pace.

Red Bull, as ever, are less likely to be outright contenders for pole position. Perhaps acknowledging this, they have an extra set of the soft compound tyres available compared to their rivals. The RB14s ran well on this rubber in first practice – Daniel Ricciardo headed a significant chunk of the session. This raises the possibility of them using the harder rubber in Q2 and starting the race on them.

This might have been a bigger advantage had the race looked likely to be a two-stop strategy for those who choose to qualify on the softer compounds. But based on today’s running that doesn’t seem likely to be the case.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Paul Ricard, 2018
Expect single-stop strategies on Sunday
Carlos Sainz Jnr said tyre degradation had been “surprisingly good”, echoing a view expressed by several drivers.

“I don’t want to be pessimistic but a one-stop is maybe even more on the cards now we have done the long runs. But you know on Sunday things can change, things get a bit more critical when you start pushing a bit more.”

The decision to fix the pit lane speed at the lower limit of 60kph this weekend, increasing the penalty of making a pit stop, will give drivers a further incentive to stop just once. And the falling track temperatures expected over the coming days should ease the strain on the tyres, as Valtteri Bottas pointed out.

“[Friday] with the ultra was really hot,” he said. “We think it’s going to be a bit cooler [Saturday] and Sunday which is going to make it more durable.”

Haas underlined the impression that car performance at this track will be much the same as it was in Spain. Romain Grosjean was comfortably the best of the midfielders, and his home race is surely his best chance yet of finally scoring his first points of the season.

Behind Haas there should be a fierce scrap for the final places in Q3 between the McLarens, Renaults and Force Indias. Pierre Gasly could also get in the mix with his upgraded Toro Rosso, but team mate Brendon Hartley is concerned about a possible penalty following his stoppage in second practice.

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Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

Complete practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’32.2311’32.53952
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1’32.3711’34.15636
3Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’32.5271’33.24356
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’33.0031’33.42652
5Sebastian VettelFerrari1’33.1721’33.68954
6Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’33.3311’33.27139
7Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’33.3181’33.69952
8Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Honda1’33.6851’34.53558
9Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’33.7191’36.08039
10Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’34.1081’34.45756
11Carlos Sainz JnrRenault1’34.2581’35.08658
12Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Renault1’34.8621’34.40044
13Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes1’34.4841’35.70539
14Charles LeclercSauber-Ferrari1’34.5131’35.58354
15Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’34.59221
16Brendon HartleyToro Rosso-Honda1’34.6641’35.69756
17Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’34.8811’35.93662
18Nico HulkenbergRenault1’34.9931’35.06754
19Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Renault1’35.0211’35.17252
20Sergey SirotkinWilliams-Mercedes1’35.1051’35.97060

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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2018 French Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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5 comments on “One-stop strategies expected again at Paul Ricard”

  1. So we’ll watch them driving around 2 or 3 seconds slower than they’re capable of going for most of the race to MAKE SURE they can stretch it to a one stopper, just like most of the other races this season.

    Another Sunday drive showcase event. The tyres were supposed to be softer therefore creating two stop races this season but Pirelli have failed again (surprise!), though to be honest when pit stops are the highlight of a race you have to wonder what you’re actually watching here.

    At least the circuit is in keeping with this ‘racing’ as it looks like a complete joke on TV.

    1. What’s the solution here? If it’s possible to stretch the tyres to doing a one stop race, perhaps mandate minimum of 2 pit stops to ensure they can drive flat out in between?

      The problem seems to be that it’s quicker over a race distance and gives better track position to drive around at 85% and stretch the life of the tyres out, so it would make sense to change the rules so that it’s quicker to drive flat out between stops and change the tyres more regularly, perhaps even going up to a required 3 stops over the distance? Say it’s a 60 lap race and you know you can drive flat out for 15 laps, or stretch the tyres for 25 laps I’d rather see them going flat out and pitting more regularly.

      I know it’s not practical due to the cost of getting the teams in, but F1 would benefit from running off-season non-championship races to test out different rule systems and see how it impacts the racing.

      1. I definitely think forcing two pit stops is the only quick solution to the current problem, it is absolutely ruining the racing, and as a driver I’d be embarrassed to get out the car and celebrate a win where I’d hardly had to push at all due to saving tyres. When a driver sails around for 35 laps doing 1.19’s and then on last lap puts in a 1.16 it makes me as a fan feel like a complete mug.

        I’ve never missed an F1 race in 22 years but I’ve also never felt as disillusioned with the sport as I do right now. Recently the only thing I enjoy about an F1 weekend are the F2 and F3 support races.

        1. How is that any different to, say, those drivers from the 1980’s and 1990’s that people fetishise now, but were often having to hold back on their performance due to the need to save fuel?

          The veteran journalist Jenkinson once wondered in one of his articles how the fans would react if they were able to hear the radio transmissions about how much fuel and engine management was going on during the races – the thing is, that came from an article that he wrote in 1986.

  2. So, prepare for another borefest this weekend.

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