Charles Leclerc, Sauber, Paul Ricard, 2018

2018 French Grand Prix Star Performers

2018 French Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr were RaceFans’ Stars of the French Grand Prix. Here’s why.


Charles Leclerc

By his own admission, Friday did not go well at all for Sauber’s rookie driver. He had a couple of spins while getting used to the Paul Ricard circuit.

However he starred in qualifying, reaching Q3 for the first time this year. Not only that but he claimed eighth place on the grid by taking advantage of the Haas drivers’ travails.

Holding on to a place in the top 10 on a day when so many of the quick cars finished was always going to be a challenge. However his robust – but entirely legal – resistance against Romain Grosjean paid off, as he still had the Haas behind at the chequered flag, which meant another points finish.

Carlos Sainz Jnr

Eighth place was less than Sainz deserved for one of his best weekends so far since joining Renault. He outdid qualifying specialist team mate Nico Hulkenberg by reaching Q3 and duly delivered a ‘best of the rest’ grid spot.

By dodging the chaos at the start he had the Renault as high as third at one stage. Then came the inevitable slip down the pecking order as faster cars cruised by with DRS. A late engine problem cost him two more places he might have kept.

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Romain Grosjean

Romain Grosjean, Haas, Paul Ricard, 2018
Grosjean lost out to Leclerc
This is turning into a nightmare season for Grosjean. But at his home race his problems were entirely of his own making.

His Q3 crash meant he only started three places lower than he should have done. But he clashed with Esteban Ocon before the first corner, earning an entirely justifiable penalty.

Unable to pass Leclerc, he was inevitably passed by Vettel and Bottas, but Hulkenberg’s Renault got by too. His penalty prevented him jumping ahead of Leclerc, which meant he took the chequered flag out of the points while his team mate was sixth.

This was accompanied by the usual whingeing on the radio about his rivals’ perfectly legal defensive moves.

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And the rest

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Paul Ricard, 2018
Vettel’s clash with Bottas was avoidable
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen cruised in first and second, seldom looking under threat. After another thoroughly unimpressive Saturday, Kimi Raikkonen redeemed himself to an extent by passing a hobbled Daniel Ricciardo for third.

Having qualified well, Sebastian Vettel was the architect of his own demise on the first lap. Valtteri Bottas deserved much more than seventh having been hit by the Ferrari.

Kevin Magnussen was right to feel aggrieved that the stewards took no action over Raikkonen blocking him in qualifying. Recovering to sixth ahead of Bottas was a fair reward for his efforts. A mistake in qualifying left Nico Hulkenberg out of Q3 but he recovered to bag more points for Renault.

McLaren’s qualifying weakness hit them harder than ever at Paul Ricard and both cars went out in Q1. Stoffel Vandoorne recovered to 12th but Fernando Alonso clashed with Vettel and was classified 16th after picking up damage. The Williams pair ran around at the back of the field until a puncture pitched Lance Stroll off at high speed.

A crash in practice left Marcus Ericsson on the back foot, though he didn’t appear to have the pace of his team mate. It was a wasted weekend for the Force India duo, neither of which saw the chequered flag. Pierre Gasly also went out at the start, and team mate Brendon Hartley was out of the fight for points after a Honda power unit change left him last on the grid.

Over to you

Vote for the driver who impressed you most last weekend and find out whether other RaceFans share your view here:

2018 French Grand Prix

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Author information

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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41 comments on “2018 French Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    27th June 2018, 10:54

    Feel Kevin deserved a nod for keeping Bottas at bay for 6th, although of the Formula 1.5 contenders Sainz was indeed the standout performer and unlucky not to come home best of the rest

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      27th June 2018, 13:42

      remember Bottas effectively served a 5 second penalty like Vettel ue to a problem in the pits. This cost him time and he came out behind Magnussen and sme others due to this. Also, it won’t have been that hard for magnussen to keep Bottas behind. You could tell Bottas was lacking downforce and grip. But that said, I wouldn’t be against magnussen being a star erformer again. Though I think he should have been ahead of leclerc in qualifying.

      1. And apparently you didn’t watch the qualify as RAI was the reason why LEC qualified better than MAG…MAG didn’t even get a shot on Q3..

        Another thing about LEC: he is driving the best Sauber in years and is compared to ERI… don’t be fooled..

      2. Leclerc was faster than Magnussen in Q, because Raikkonen f….up 3 laps in Q including overtaking and aborting on the Magnussen fast laps.

  2. I don’t want to take away anything from LeClerc but I have a feeling the Sauber is not as bad as it was especially on power tracks where the Ferrari PU is very strong. He is a little slower in qualy than Mag in his Ferrari powered Haas.

    1. Indeed, Leclerc is doing a stellar job, but that Sauber isn’t the car it was last year. And besides that, FI, McLaren and Williams all have gone backwards

    2. @anunaki good points – we need to look at ericsson and how he is more competitive this year too. still, he’s getting smashed by leclerc which is the only true yardstick. ferrari would be silly not to replace raikkonen with him, but they do have a history of cautious decisions.

  3. This was accompanied by the usual whingeing on the radio about his rivals’ perfectly legal defensive moves.

    I can’t stand him anymore. At this stage, Haas deserves someone better. Imagine if it was on a Toro Rosso.

    1. I never understood why they didn’t have a chance to Rossi in the first place, and since they didn’t want any of the Ferrari young talent there I don’t understand what they are waiting for.

      K-Mag has made some errors too, but he is picking up the points

      1. I’m honestly surprised that they haven’t given him the boot. 0 points compared to Kmags 27. The car does not suit him and that’s how it goes sometimes. He is not improving, just overcompensating and making mistakes. Move on Haas, or face coming in 9th in the constructors

  4. When did Alonso clashed with Vettel? They didn’t touch, Alonso just lost it, not something that is common but he did, I didn’t notice damage either, maybe he cooked the tyres a bit, but at least I don’t remember seeing any damage to the car. I would have put him on the strugglers list. But I would have done the same for his teammate in previous GPs, and I don’t think that happened either

    1. Vettel could join them too btw

    2. @johnmilk looking at replays if they touch it’s more kissing tyres than a hit. But there’s no footage of the rear tyres that could also have touched. Probably Alonso was forced onto the interior of the turn and lost it with oversteering?

      1. @spoutnik that was my understanding as well, Alonso made the turn too tight and lost it on oversteering, it doesn’t feel like there was any touch, at least from the onboards.

        Alonso did pit in the first lap, but that was a tactical decision, not due to damage, so I don’t know where this comes from, little help here Keith.

        Regardless my point is, Vettel and Alonso wouldn’t be out of place next to Grosjean in this list

    3. @johnmilk Agreed. It’s particularly significant because this is the first time in a long time that we see Alonso have a bad race that didn’t involve his car breaking down.

  5. Expected Alonso to be in the strugglers this time.

    1. I’d agree though Alonso was one of the few to stay on-track after Ocon-Gasly crash, loosing 4 places and then had to pit to change damaged tyres iirc. Then it already was game over at a track where only Williams cars were worse than the McLarens.

      1. @spoutnik I said the same thing above, but I think he just pitted for a tactical point of view, as he was last.
        We was one of the few that didn’t cut the chicane, but the same cannot be said for the turn 1 incident

    2. I expected McLaren as a team tbh.

    3. I don’t think Alonso did a bad job considering the car wasn’t up to the task. Switching to Softs during the safety car was a risky bet that ended up failing (as both Vettel and Bottas were forced to change tyres too), and the massive lack of straight line speed meant Alonso was going to have a miserable time trying to overtake other cars.

  6. Stars: Hamilton, Leclerc, Sainz, and Magnussen.
    Strugglers: Mclaren, Williams, Vettel, and Ricciardo.

  7. I like to go the factual way regarding star-performers.

    Hamilton > ahead in Q1, 2 and 3 , ahead in the race, flawless drive
    Verstappen > ahead in Q1, 2 and 3 , ahead in the race, flawless drive
    Sainz > ahead in Q1, 2 and 3 , ahead in the race, though his car would not allow him to really shine
    Leclerc > ahead in Q1, 2 and 3 , ahead in the race, though not a flawless drive

    Hamiton and Verstappen plus arguably Sainz where the real start performers… the media needs new hero’s, Leclerc falls in that category…good, but not a flawless performance and a doubtfull team mate to meassure him up against.

    1. +1!
      I think you nailed it perfectly and with much better arguments then Keith.

      And I would put McLaren as a team, Alonso and Stroll as the real stugglers of this weekend.

    2. I agree Hamilton had a good weekend, but I don’t think he was a star of the weekend.

      Bottas lost only a tenth to Hamilton in qualifying despite losing lots of practice time. In the race Hamilton was a sure winner after Vettel crashed Bottas, so Hamilton’s race was nothing special. Bottas was 7th despite dropping last, having floor damage and botched pit stop, so we propably would’ve seen an intense fight for victory without Vettel.

      Hamilton did what was needed to win the race, but the point of naming stars of the weekend is to highlight exceptional performances.

      1. @hotbottoms @Matn @dutch-1 I’d also note that Raikkonen would have surely been in the strugglers list were it not for the attrition ahead of him. He should have been 6th, in a car that was capable of winning.

        1. @hotbottoms @ajpennypacker
          Don’t get fooled by Matn (and dutch-1). “I like to go the factual way regarding star-performers.” – Hahahah, everything he posts has the only function to portray and convince the world that Max V is the best driver who’s ever lived and will live and is flawless, so every time he crashes (into someone else), it’s somebody else his fault.

  8. Thought both Hamilton and Magnussen should also be considered in the stars list.

    Although, I thought Sainz deserved it hands down for this weekend. Solid qualifying and start .. lost positions towards the end only because of a problem. He was clearly best of the rest this weekend.

  9. Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen cruised in first and second, seldom looking under threat.

    It didn’t seem as ‘cruisy’ as in other races; still fastest laps at various points even though top 3 cars with fresh tyres were racing hard to catch up.
    Both HAM & VER had a very solid weekend, similar to the star quality of the ones identified in this article.

  10. Strange to see how little credit MAG is given after France. Neither here nor in the simewhat strange and distant Power Ranking at he has been allowed even an honorable mentioning. Is Haas just not thst “popular”? In my humble opinion they have an interesting package.

    1. Magnussen was no. 1 in “F1 power ranking” the first 2 weeks. It’s based on the last 3 races and since Monaco og Canada was rubbish for Magnussen. But after Austria and Silverstone he can be no 1. again ;-)

      1. Agree. Monaco and Canada was to forget😉
        Fingers crossed for the next two weekends.

  11. Does Racefans have something against MAG? They allways forget him in starperformers even if he is “Best of the rest” – but if he have just the slighest problems: Strugler..

    Actually think he is doing very well..and like his attitude.. reminds me of the old Senna/Prost dayes..

    1. Magnussen’s image took a beating all of 2017 and early in 2018. I agree he should have been included. I’d say he’s the most improved driver in 2018. Both in performance and attitude. He hasn’t had an accident in a while now.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        27th June 2018, 22:01

        Well, only been 4 races. Remember his clash with Gasly? I may be wrong but I thought he got some sort of penalty for that.

        I agree he is looking a lot better, but I think one reason is because Grosjean is looking terrible. When Grosjean hasn’t clearly been poor (which has been almost all of the season), he has managed to be quicker than Magnussen. Even this weekend, he did look quite a bit quicker somehow until the most important thing came. Sounds silly but I think Grosjean under performing is making Magnussen stand out more.

        1. Grosjean is so fast, he can’t control the car. When you are so fast, you are actually one of the slowest, what his zero points also suggest.

          By the way – Grosjean was 4/100 faster than Magnussen in Q2 and crashed in Q3. Grosjean was aprox 36 sec after in the race and his fastest lap was 2/10 slower than Magnussens best.

          1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            28th June 2018, 8:46

            Well, to be fair he would have around 10 points if he hadn’t been very unlucky in a couple of weekends. But to be fair, Magnussen would likely have a similar amount more too. But what I’m saying is Grosjean wouldn’t have none.

            In Australia, Grosjean was running 5th when Verstappen had spun behind Magnussen. When he caught up (which was pretty fast, he stayed within 1.5 seconds and DRS range until Magnussen pitted. For all we know, given Magnussen was dropping back from Vettel, Grosjean could possibly have been faster than Magnussen. We just don’t know. But I think considering how highly rated Magnussen was that weekend, Grosjean was hardly any worse. That was a good weekend from him and both deserved a lot of points. I think Ricciardo will have managed to get past by strategy in the pits. So they probably will have been 5th and 6th without their bad luck.

            Then in Canada, Grosjean came from the back due to no fault of his own and managed to get past Magnussen. The only weekend but clearly was better than Magnussen. If he had managed to qualify in a decent position, he will have likely been 9th or 10th. He was only about 6 seconds and 2 places off the points. So if I add on Magnussens missed points from Australia, he would have nearly 40. If I do the same with Grosjean, I think he’s due 9 or 10 at least. 0 isn’t the best way to judge him. But I will admit as you say, Magnussen is far better at the moment.

            I was talking about practice when I thought Grosjean was looking quicker again. As he was over 8 tenths faster in P1 and around 3 tenths in P2. They looked about even until Grosjean messed it up. Grosjean just seems to struggle if his car isn’t perfect which certainly is a negative point.

        2. When Magnussen was under pressure from Botta’s in the end of the race, he managed to set the fastest time of all drivers on lap 52/53. He dosent’t need Grosjeans failure to stand out.

        3. Well said Ben. But practice is there to prepare the driver for Q and race. The lap time is secondary. Grosjean biggest problem is Magnussens driving and results when it matters. This put Grosjean under so much pressure, he steam and make costly mistakes. The best thing he could do is to figure out which areas he can learn from Magnussen, instead of all his bad excuses and claims like in Australia (i feel I could be closer to Vettel if Kevin – let me by!). This was righ after he was beaten in Q by Magnussen and Magnussen had overtaken Verstappen and pressured Verstappen spin. Come Grosjean, you can’t fool anybody.

          1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            28th June 2018, 21:02

            Yea, i can agree with that @racefan. Practice is practice. It just to me shows that Grosjean will still maybe have some weekends where he’s back to how he used to be as he did look very strong at the start of it in france.

            Regarding Australia, Magnussen did do what he needed to do. And that was getting a better start and also qualifying ahead of Grosjean. This was important at a track that this year happened to be next to impossible to overtake on. All I am saying is that when Vetstappen spun and both Hass drivers were in free air, Grosjean was catching Magnussen. Showing that there was a good possibility that he may have been faster. Another thing that I thought that may have been the case was that he was catching Magnussen while defending Ricciardo who was within half a second most laps. So I’m not actually against Grosjean’s claims there. It did look like he could have been quicker given he was catching Magnussen while defending a faster car. Maybe the way it came across was a bit much. I know what he sounds like when he’s mad. But in terms of who deserved the higher position, yes it would be magnussen as I’m never a fan of team orders that result in a swap of positions. That is why I respect Bottas and Hamilton in Hungary for each allowing each other through.

            But being faster there I guess was the wrong time, as he should have been in qualifying. It’s just those saying that Grosjean has been terrible all season. I think he’s been poor most of it, but Australia and especially Canada looked good due to his lack of running in qualifying.

  12. I’m positively surprised you haven’t included hamilton in the stars, I’m not a hater and he’s on the podium of my current favourite drivers, but you also didn’t include vettel’s flawless drive in canada, so it was fair to not include hamilton’s either, what they have in common is with the best car they won with around 7 sec margin and none got the fastest lap, while for example, hamilton in spain got star performer without fastest lap and with the best car, but he had a bigger margin on the 2nd, almost 20 sec.

    Sainz and leclerc definitely did well, same for verstappen even though it was a quiet race for him, alonso could probably be considered a struggler, worst race of the year, raikkonen, vettel and bottas are probably ok as no strugglers and no stars, since they had ups and downs.

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